The Sunbaked King

Leche Flan

It was around the time we transferred to Davao when I finally stopped sleeping in my parents’ room and got my own. It was a wonderful moment of independence. Sure, it was just a jump across a very micro-mini corridor, but those two feet of space made a lot of difference. My older brother almost always slept late, and sometimes at the living room couch at that, so I had the room all to myself.

I was a prince in a sturdy fortress. After class, this young knight went straight to his room to save the damsel in distress over and over again, and to conquer his fear of witches and the supernatural. Which just means to say: Nintendo games and Stephen King books. My parents did not approve of locking the doors, so there was no real sense of privacy, but who needs privacy when you get transported to another world? I was a prince. I was a knight.

Except when I became sick. Then I was back to being a little boy again.

Sometimes, I used to wake up shaking under my blanket, rivulets of sweat flowing down from my face. I felt sad and lonely and miserable. With my small hands, I’d peel the blanket off me, gingerly get down from my bed, and walk those two feet of space that felt like a thousand. Then, with a quiet sob, tears mixing with sweat, I’d knock on my parents’ door. Gently at first, then with some urgency. As I stand there shaking, Mama would open the door, utter a cry of concern, press the back of her hand against my forehead, and usher me in. I was back again in my parents’ bedroom, and Mama wouldn’t sleep until I was alright.

Flash forward 15 years.

Work has been quite stressful lately. I think I’ve done something that is partly my fault, and it’s killing my time for my other tasks, and it’s killing my time for studying. I came from a trip that, while fun, was also tiring. I’ve spent some nights working overtime, not getting enough rest, and feeling crappy the entire day. At one point last week, I almost broke down to cry. 

And then I remembered. I picked my cellphone up, looked under my contacts, and pressed the Call button. 

“Hello Ma. Saan ka ngayon?

      “Nandito ako sa Rockwell.”

Gutom na ako.”

      “O ano mang gusto mo kainin? Dito na lang tayo?”

“Ikaw bahala, para hindi hassle, sa bahay niyo na lang, luto na lang tayo.”

      “Ay puwede rin langga [palangga = sweetheart], may binili akong bacon para sa kapatid mo.”

“Sige, masarap yan.”

      “Pero puwede rin dito, sa Milky Way na lang ulit tayo.”

“Sige, Ma. Punta na ako diyan in a while.”

Mama was here. In Manila. For almost a month. At that moment, I felt awash with a gratitude so intense it tingled from head to toe. And like the mother that she is, she immediately took care of me like the little boy I was– and still am. Needless to say, for the entire time we were together, joking around, me poking her ukay-ukay attire, and she telling me how vain I was, I felt all my burdens come undone from my shoulders. I felt refreshed. I felt free.

I love my Mama to bits.

Happy birthday, Ma. The past month has been a blast. Leche flan in December? 🙂


Filed under: Domesticated, Sunshine, Testimonial


I don’t understand.

This was supposed to be a joyful entry, one that greets a very important person in my life for another year of being the perfect person that she is, but somehow, in some twisted godforsaken way, the night ended in tears, in sadness, and in a painful separation.

How can one refreshing morning end up with such a gloomy evening?

How can one mistake turn out to be the highlight of a month-long family affair?

How can a reunion cause so much separation and strife?

It’s incomprehensible.

I don’t understand.

Filed under: Domesticated, Utter Sadness

High School Musical 3


High School Musical 3

Zac Efron, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Gabreel, Corbin Bleu, Monique Coleman… [anyone else I missed?]

mpahighschoolmusical3posterHollywood is confusing me. I don’t know what to make of it anymore. Who represents the high school teens of America more?

In one corner, we have the beautiful lads and lasses of 90210. The West Beverly High teens are a bunch of rich kids with nothing much to do but swap girlfriends and boyfriends boringly, make cheesy remarks boringly, fight with parents and fellow students boringly, and bitch around in parties boringly. I didn’t realize that teen life in California, and by association the entire United States, was so sleep-inducing. But 90210 proved me wrong. Who am I, a foreigner, to disagree with the American show? I can’t even control my adverbs.

In another corner, coated with gold stripes of wealth and splashed with green streaks of envy, are the fabulous teens of the Upper East Side. With Gossip Girl constantly revealing the scandalous news of Manhattan’s elite, it’s hard not to think of American teens as shamelessly rich and deliciously mean people who can’t seem to find any time to go to class. Instead of biology, they have sexual chemistry; instead of graphs, they have other exciting evil things to plot.

Interesting choices we’ve got so far. But wait, there’s one final contender: the kids at East High. With their Montez smiles, Bolton muscles, and Evans flair, maybe these joyous teens re-pre-sent? Granted, Disney exaggerates the happiness and the camaraderie, but I can’t help but wonder whether American teens aren’t as cynical or as liberated as media purports them to be. Maybe it’s really possible that jocks can be invited over by Julliard if they can scream loud enough in empty gymnasiums without attracting any security intervention. Maybe it’s really possible to giggle the Gabriella way without getting socked in the face. Maybe it’s really possible that a guy (say, Troy) and a girl (say, Gabriella) can really stay in a room all alone and not do anything (say, sex). 

But then I remember that Vanessa Hudgens plays Gabriella Montez, and I am suddenly convinced otherwise. Upper East Side for the win!

Filed under: Cinema, The Couch Potato, TV

Family Affair

Alam mo Wing [yes, that’s my nickname], you’re not teaching your brother the right virtues, like frugality. Yang pakain-kain niyo sa mga mamahaling restaurants, it teaches all the wrong things. Dapat turuan mong magtipid. Basahin mo yung 8 Secrets of the Truly Rich by Bo Sanchez. Maganda ang mga tips niya.

Di ba religious guy yun, Pa? Baka naman puno ng religious interjections ang book niya.

Hindi, hindi. Walang religion-religion. Puro financial tips lang.

Meet my dad. Finding ways to bridge financial and spiritual success.


“Wing, nagdala ako ng paksiw para sa Papa mo.

Kenneth: “Yan pala ang binabalot ni Mama kanina.

Kerwin: “Dapat quarantined yan.

Ang mahal ng mga pagkain dito sa Manila. Di tulad sa Davao. Di pa masasarap yang mga restaurants na kinakainan mo. Mga weird.”

Di ka lang sanay, Ma.

Mas magaling pa ako magluto nung mga pagkain. Mura pa.

Meet my mom. Maintaining an orderly household through home-cooked meals and ukay-ukay, one leche flan at a time, one imported shirt at a time.


Papa arrived last November 2. Mama arrived last November 8. They’ll be staying here until the end of the month. With Kenneth in tow, it feels good to be almost complete again (Kuya remains isolated in Davao). Never mind the lectures about saving, being my brother’s keeper, my taste in restaurants, the cleanliness of our room, my bonus and its future whereabouts, and healthy living. I’m just glad they’re here.

Ladies and gentlemen, mi familia hermosa:


Filed under: Domesticated, Sunshine, Vanity

I Don’t Know How To Study

(I’ve watched four movies during the last two weeks– High School Musical 3, Pineapple Express, The House Bunny, and Madagascar 2– but I guess the movie reviews have to wait. It’s rare that I pass up the opportunity to do a review, since they are FUN, but pressing emotions and realizations have come to the forefront. Like this one.)

I don’t know how to study.

I first had a glimpse of this startling realization during my exam last June. The topics I had to learn for that season were fiendishly varied: law, risk management | solvency, underwriting | biology, and the pre-need industry. Individually, the topics were fine, but merged together? My mind collapsed. I failed. I chalked my failure to the fact that I didn’t know how to segregate the concepts in my brain. It was a valid reason that time.

I didn’t realize that the problem went a lot deeper than that.

Our study habits are dictated by the way we expect our exams to be. A simple multiple-choice exam that tests basic concepts only requires familiarity with the text. An in-depth comprehension is not necessary, unless of course you want to ace the exam. An essay that tests the interrelation between individual topics, on the other hand, requires a deeper understanding of those topics. In other words, we mold our study habits in such a way that we only expend energy and time proportional to the requirement of the exam.

Now, as a math major who’s been taking computational exams for God knows how long, my study method is as follows: I take a formula, keep it in my head, and practice solving with it again and again until I have sufficiently understood its nuances. I actually don’t need to memorize the formula as long as I’ve practiced with it long enough and well enough. My arm suddenly has the ability to “remember” how it’s done.

This is where the problem lies. My exams are not computational in nature anymore, and neither are they in a format I like best: multiple-choice. I have to answer 20 to 25 essay questions in 6 hours– 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon– and I have to provide detailed elaborations to those questions. I cannot study for these exams in the way I do for multiple-choice tests; just familiarizing myself with the concepts is not going to work this time. I cannot study for these exams in the way I do for philosophical essays; taking one idea and running with my own analysis is going to get me nowhere. More important, I cannot study for these exams in the way I do for computational tests; I have lost arm muscle memory, and there’s no practicing for these.

Suddenly, I’m faced with a need for comprehension and detail. Which means in-depth memorization. Which means unfamiliar territory.  Which means I’m lost. Again.

With one month to go, it’s a nightmare.

I need help.

Filed under: Geekery, Ra

Exam Season

It’s exam season in my part of the world, and tensions are running high. In one corner you can hear people discussing put-call options, the Black-Scholes formula, and the importance of asset-liability matching. In another you’ll hear mutterings of reserves, premiums, and death benefits. The world is suddenly a big sea of numbers, symbols, and abstractions, and we are fearfully wading in it.

For some, the exams (and consequently the fears) have already passed. They can now expel a sigh of relief because the ordeal is through. There’s the waiting part, of course, but not a lot of effort goes into that. They can always entertain themselves with happy thoughts (the latest Gossip Girl episode, free weekends, sleep) and they’ll be fine. Unfortunately for me, however, the “ordeal” is just about to escalate.

(A side note: “Ordeal” is enclosed in quotations marks because I don’t really consider studying a burden. In fact, my thoughts on studying are brimming with positivity.)

I have three exams, two of which are related to my industry, and the other one related to my profession. Those first two I’ll have to take tomorrow and on Thursday. It’s extremely easy to cram for those normally, but cramming tends to mess with your head if you do it too much. Maybe this is why I’m sitting here in Starbucks blogging instead of preparing for the exam. I’m panic-stricken. If you can see me now, I’m shaking like the wind and sweating like the river. I don’t think those two phrases are real expressions, but you know what I mean. If someone comes over right now and touches me, I will freak out and stab him with a fork–

I’m just kidding. I’m fine. Seriously though, I’m supposed to be studying, and what I’m doing is delaying the inevitable. But I’ll get through those two, I hope, well enough. The problem lies with the exam I’ll be taking on December, the one related to my profession. I’ve been studying for that since August, and yet I still feel so unprepared. Days of poring through photocopied materials have produced little recall; nights of stubbing my fingers on calculator keys have produced little effect. And to top it all off, I still have one huge reading to study. With only one month to go and a trip to Cagayan de Oro in the middle of the month, can I still make it?


I have to study now.

Filed under: Geekery, Rat Race

Love Letters for No One (In Particular)

Dear K,

You and I think alike in some twisted way others do not really know about. I don’t think you know it, either. But there is a connection in there somewhere, because I understand you when others do not. I find your thoughts refreshing and sincere. While I am sometimes put off by your timing and your tactlessness, I am more intrigued by your frankness and honesty. I do wish we could get together sometime, away from the people who look at us with nothing but malice in their eyes and nothing but judgment in their minds. I would love to open up to you, to tell you that I am here. I understand. I care.


Dear R,

Are you on a diet or something? Have you been going to the gym that you so vehemently sworn off a few months back when we were chatting? Because I’ve got to say, you look good. It’s been forever since I saw you, and honestly, this is quite a surprising change. From the way your face glows to how tender your hands have become, everything seems for the better. Honestly, I was weirded out when we first met way back during our time of innocence. You were so shy, so quiet, so contained, that I didn’t know what was going on. Good thing then that our paths didn’t cross that often, because I didn’t have to deal with the awkwardness that occurred every time we did. But now… but now… I am speechless. I am breathless.


Dear S,

There are three C’s to describe you: conversant, confident, sorta cute. Well, that last one’s kinda forced, but you know what I mean. It’s been sometime since I met someone with the qualities so wonderfully balanced in one cool package. You never ran out of words to say, and I like that. You carried yourself in a way only someone in your profession can, and I also like that. And your “cuteness,” well, takes a little getting used to, but it’s definitely there. It’s rare that new acquaintances become more than acquaintances in a span of few days, but there you go. I guess what we have is something special, huh?


Except that it’s not.
Not with you K. Not with you R. Not with you S.


K, there are certain fundamental preferences that we cannot twist, bend, or break, no matter how hard we try. Admittedly, I’m not even trying, but only because there is no point.

R, your transformation can only take you so far. Can only take us so far, if ever we decide to take that journey at all. You know the Chinese saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”? That single step might actually mean a single “word,” and I’m afraid that communication is not our strongest suit.

S, telling the truth does not make you less of an asshole. The truth must be said by the right person at the right time in the right place using the right method. That was not the right method. It was not the right place. That was not the right time. You are not the right person.


I say all this with much love and regret.



Filed under: Eros, Testimonial