Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My (painfully) long Christmas weekend

December 23, Saturday: a not-so-bad beginning

After lunch, I went to Vina's house to visit the new mommy and her baby boy. Although I am allergic to babies and children in general, tiny Tyler was docile enough for me to find him absolutely adorable. He was napping when I arrived, but woke up to be fed and burped (it was all over rather quickly, which surprised me-- that's how placid a baby he is), and then he went right back to sleep. I hope he does not give his mom too much trouble as he grows bigger.

I rushed back home because our mother-side cousins were gathering at our house for song rehearsal. We were so bad, it was comic. Half of us couldn't carry a tune to save our lives (I belong to that half), and those who could were drowned out by the booming baritones of the boys at the back (thank goodness there are only 5 boys out of 18 grandchildren). After going through the 2 songs several times (every repetition increased my fear we'd bring down our living room chandelier), our parents let us adjourn. My mom and sibs and I accompanied Auntie Lua and her family from Australia (she married a Scotsman) to the Mall of Asia, then we had dinner with our grandparents and some relatives from China (yawn).

December 24, Sunday: when things started going downhill

My mom, my sister and I headed to our neighborhood salon to get hair treatments and manicures/pedicures, only to find that their air-conditioning was busted. But since I needed my nails done and my hair trimmed before I went to Cebu for Bel's wedding, we stuck it out and sweltered under our hot oil steamers. Then we met with the emcee for Guama and Guakong's party to iron out the program details, after which we met up with Pa and Bens to watch The Nativity Story at the Promenade (yes, it was kinda cheesy watching the story of Christ's birth on Christmas Eve, but there was nothing else worth seeing).

With many restaurants closing early and since all of us were feeling uninspired, we decided to grab a quick dimsum dinner at Gloriamaris. Stuffed with noodles and dumplings, we felt even more lethargic and decided to attend the 10PM Christmas mass at Mary the Queen instead of high mass at midnight (my brother was voting for Xavier's 10PM mass but my dad didn't want to walk the extra few feet, and celebrity-shy me didn't want to run into dozens of my former students).

After a very dry mass (the homily was wooden and uninspiring, the selection of Christmas songs not to my liking), we headed home and waited for midnight to start opening the presents under our tree. Bens opened a bottle of wine (well, actually I opened the bottle, since he couldn't work the corkscrew xp), I whipped out my trusty digicam, and Hanks distributed the gifts. Half of the stash I got this year went into the "regift/recycle" pile, but the other half I just luuuved.

Unfortunately, things turned kinda nasty when my sister and I got into a snippy exchange that led to a huffy silence for the rest of the night. To make me feel better, I polished off half a pint of Haagen-Daz Choc Choc Chip, ignoring the fact that I'd be part of a wedding in 2 days and I still needed to fit into my gown. My pomelo pink gown.

December 25, Monday: major Christmas day blunder

In the afternoon, we picked up Uncle Keith (our Scottish uncle) and Ewen (our half-Scottish cousin). Bens was going to take them to the Wack-Wack driving range to hit a few buckets. We were running early, so we swung by the Promenade to grab a cup of coffee at CBTL. On my way out of the minivan, I stooped down to grab a piece of Kleenex from the box on the floor, because I needed to spit out the gum I had been chewing. However, I misfired and my hair chose to fall into my face at that exact moment, and the gum wound up getting stuck in my hair. Worse, when I attempted to pull it off, it got even more entangled.

I went home with a clump of gummy hair dipped in a cup of hot water, and of course our arrival just had to coincide with the arrival of my other aunts and uncles who were meeting at our house to discuss the party next week. I refused to even consider cutting my hair (I had just gotten a trim and treatment the day before!), so thankfully my brother found a solution to my errr... sticky situation on the Internet ( is a lifesaver!). I applied baby oil to the gooey mess on my hair and it came off like magic (Bens was pushing for the other suggested remedy, peanut butter, but I think he just wanted me to take the funnier way out of an already mortifying mishap).

With my hair gum-free, Hanks, Abi and I crossed the street to Starbucks Ash Creek where I comforted myself with a Java Chip frap (again, in sheer defiance of the gown I had to put on in less than 24 hours' time). Over an hour of solid girl talk made me feel much better too, and by the time we returned to the house, I was ready to get dolled up for dinner at Mi Piace with my family (immediate family, that is) and Auntie Nene.

December 26, Tuesday: the ordeal

My mom and I were taking the 9:30AM PAL flight to Cebu for Bel's wedding, so we had to leave the house before 8AM. My alarm didn't go off, and when I jerked awake, it was already close to 7:30, so my day got off to a panicky, frantic start. Fast forward to our arrival in Cebu, and my rushing to the Waterfront's bridal suite to get my hair and makeup done (kudos to Bel and her family for being so wonderfully organized, from pre-arranging guest check-in to stocking the minibars in our rooms). When I got to the suite, my soul sister was looking more lovely than ever, and she wasn't even in her wedding gown yet (I suppose that whole "radiant bride" thing really is true). I had no doubt that she would be the most gorgeous woman in the room that day (on normal days she usually is already, yihee, I hope she's reading this ;p).

After I was made presentable, I got into my gown, my pomelo pink gown (as I told Bel, "ONLY for you!"), and hoped it would be the last source of discomfort to me for the rest of the day. Naturally, it was not.

We got to the church around 4PM. It was already pretty full, with many relatives and friends milling about the entrance. Then the wedding coordinators asked the members of the bridal procession to line up. We obediently stood in line for about 30 minutes, sweating in the afternoon humidity (I could feel my makeup melting away), until the last principal sponsor made her dramatic entrance. Who was the sponsor we were waiting for? Why, it was Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, no less. Now I have no great love for our nation's leader, and seated behind her, I was sorely tempted to put bunny ears on her head while the row of sponsors were being photographed, but I respect Bel's family too much to have made a scene (plus, all the PSG dudes hovering around us scared me).

Pink gown, insufferable heat, and GMA aside, my biggest beef with the wedding was the dozens of kaisiao offers coming at me from all corners. I thought being me was bad enough, me with "single, well-educated Chinese girl from nice family" stamped on my forehead. Put me in a pink gown, set my hair, and paint my face, and you might as well slap one of those police sirens on top of my head, blaring "SINGLE! SINGLE! SINGLE!" Diminutive grandmothers descended upon me like vultures circling a camel carcass in the middle of the Sahara . Friends of my parents lacking in the arts of subtlety informed me of nephews who are "very much available", wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Some would even slyly suggest that I had already caught the eye of said nephews (which was creepy more than flattering). And out of nowhere, old people I barely knew would come up to me just to ask how tall I was. I felt like I was up for auction or something. It was a relief to get back to our hotel room after the reception and get out of my gown and shower before I attracted any more unwanted attention.

However, I can honestly say I would gladly go through all that torture again in exchange for the look of pure joy in Bel's eyes that day. It was the first time I had met Erwyn, the groom, in person, but I could tell straight away that my soul sister had found her match in him. Bel's not the type of girl who would let just any guy sweep her off her feet (1 of the reasons we get along so famously), so I trust that when she chose him from among her legions of suitors, she picked the guy she's truly meant to be with forever. I wish them all the best in their life together. =D

* * *

So that painfully long blog post summed up my painfully long Christmas weekend. Tonight, the Go cousins are congregating at our house again for 1 final rehearsal (God I hope our chandelier holds), and I am sure to endure some merciless ribbing from Kev about my gum-in-the-hair disaster. Our aunt who lives in Japan has already arrived with her Japanese husband and 1 of her daughters (the other one's flying in from Japan on the day of the party itself, talk about cutting it close). My mom's cousins from Hong Kong are all arriving tomorrow, and we're having dinner with them at Heat. Then it's showtime on the evening of the 29th at Gloriamaris. I just pray none of my students or any of their parents are invited to the party to witness our performance. I've endured enough holiday stress this year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Photographs and memories

The other night, I went through all the old photo albums in our den, looking for pictures of my guakong and guama to use in the AVP we're making for their wedding anniversary party on the 29th. Flipping through pages and pages of old family photographs made me nostalgic, and more than once I burst out laughing when I came across a photo that showed baaaaad hairstyles, extremely 80s fashion (shoulder pads and leggings and vests, oh my!), and ugly, ugly eyewear (my dad takes the prize for having the hugest tortoiseshell glasses I have ever seen on a grown male :p). I also cringed every time I saw a fat photo of myself (my favorites are the ones taken right after I came home from my half-year in Beijing-- can you say siopao? haha), and awww-ed every time I saw pictures of my siblings when they were still babies/toddlers (of the 3 of us, I was the least cute child... the infamous Lim cheeks did not begin to manifest until I was older, when they were more a curse than an asset).

But there was a particular photo I found that made me go awww AND gave me the giggles:

I took it out of the album and had it scanned so I could email it to our Go cousins' YahooGroup. See the 2 adorable tykes on the far right of the photo? Those are my cousins Kev and Abi... the same pair who bickered their way through Luxembourg a few months ago. :p I'm the kid in the middle, the one in pigtails (my mom loooooved putting my hair in pigtails, it became my signature hairdo in kindergarten). That's my dad reading Peter Pan to us (check out the tasseled loafers!), and my other cousins Bryan (Kev and Abi's older brother) and Abeth (the wonderful, wonderful woman who bought the LOTR DVD box set for me recently). I love how our legs aren't even long enough to dangle over the side of the couch. It's hard to imagine we were ever that little... and that life was ever so simple that story-telling on a Sunday afternoon could hold the attention of 5 kids, and was actually a photo-worthy event. And to think we still used FILM back then. :)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tidings of joy

The Family has its first barkada baby! =D Vina gave birth to a boy last night a few minutes before midnight, a good 2 weeks earlier than her due date (I told her all those late-night shifts at the Greenhills tiangge would take their toll :p). It's amazing how one day we're all lunching together and joking about Maricris having to deliver the baby in the restaurant, and the next day Vina's texting us saying she's being admitted to Medical City already. They haven't even decided on a name for the baby yet, although the last Vina told us, they were leaning towards Vin Alan Tyler (I was the one who had suggested "Vin", as in Diesel, haha). We'll be visiting the new mommy this week, and we're all looking forward to seeing the newest member of the Family. :)

On a totally unrelated, but similarly joyous note: my cousin Abeth, who's based in London now, got me the LOTR DVD box set! I had found out that it comes surprisingly cheap on Amazon UK (even cheaper than Amazon US), and I immediately texted her, hoping she'd be able to get it before she flies home for the holidays. And my wonderful cousin instantly went online and placed the order for me. There will be 3 very happy geeks in the Lim household this Christmas. =D

Monday, December 18, 2006

Naughty girl plays nice

I have always regarded myself as a study in contradictions. On the one hand, I'm this obedient Chinese daughter, a "good girl" in all observable regards (which is why I'm such a prime kaisaio candidate-- you should see how my parents' friends' eyes light up when they find out I'm single). On the other hand, I'm also this liberated, fiercely independent thinker who's capable of being a mean old bitch (and who's not afraid to raise a few eyebrows with a high hemline). I honestly do not know how these 2 contrasting personas co-exist in me, or how I manage to shift from 1 to the other depending on what situation (or company) I'm in, but the eternal battle between good and evil has always raged inside me, and continues to do so even as I age.

While I'd like to think that Bad Ailee is usually my more dominant nature, or at least my default profile, last weekend served to highlight the more "presentable" side of my delightfully polarized personality (Chinese matchmakers from miles away could smell my availability). Friday morning saw Good Ailee running errands like a maniac in the middle of conducting store visits: I picked up my mom's Christmas presents for her friends and godchildren, bought my parents' Christmas/wedding anniversary gift, scoped out the pearl choker my dad wants to get my mom, and got some fancy soaps to distribute to my high school barakada... all squeezed in between setting up our Arrow store for the Podium's 3-day sale and checking our outlets in Rustan's Tower and Megamall.

Saturday, I accompanied my mom to her high school class's outreach activity... at an orphanage. Everyone who knows me well enough can appreciate the comedy in that. Ailee surrounded by noisy/unruly/clingy children is not exactly the stuff Norman Rockwell paintings are made of (as Raqs said, "Alam naman natin na mabuti kang tao, pero hindi lang talaga bagay sa iyo ang ganyan."). But being the dutiful daughter I am, I scrapped my original plans for the afternoon to help out my mom, who also insisted on stopping by SM San Lazaro on the way home (store visit again!), making me late for
Lynn's birthday party that night.

Sunday, after
lunch with my high school barkada, I spent about 4 hours supervising operations at our store at the Podium, managing to sell a few items, avert a paper bag shortage crisis, and work my PR skills on several business and personal acquaintances who stopped by. During lulls, I zipped around the mall buying Christmas presents for my siblings, and succeeded in hiding my purchases from them when I met up with my family for dinner later that evening.

So Santa, although I have not been a good girl ALL the time this year, this weekend I was on my best behavior. That has to count for something (hint: the DVD box set of the extended editions of the LOTR trilogy would be nice).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Planning ahead

I don't do new year's resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals for myself. As 2006 is quickly coming to a close, I am drawing up a list of things I want to accomplish in 2007, and here's what I have so far:

  • throw my mom a surprise party for her 50th birthday
  • win our sibling Oscar betting pool (I have to win it EVENTUALLY)
  • spend 2 nights in Tagaytay with my high school barkada during Holy Week
  • solicit adequate funds for our high school 10th graduation anniversary reunion
  • attend said reunion
  • enroll in a Business Chinese language course being offered by Ateneo's Confucius Institute (my Mandarin is rusty as hell-- when suppliers from China call on the phone, I'm left sputtering in incomprehension)
  • take a leisurely walk with some of my LM girls around the Ateneo Loyola campus (it will always be one of the most beautiful places in the world for me)
  • resume weekly badminton games with AP-Annex
  • buy and read more good books

In line with the last point, I already have a booklist prepared for 2007, courtesy of the New York Times Book Section's annual "Best of" list. I scoured their lists all the way back to 1996 and picked out titles that came with interesting synopses. Stuff I'll be reading next year include:

I hope Fully Booked carries all the above titles. I feel that in 2006, I didn't read enough books that forced me to think, or challenged my beliefs, or even simply moved me, so I have to revamp my reading selections, check out new, up-and-coming writers, and try my hand at reading established, renowned authors like Murakami, McEwan, Updike, and Roth. I need the mental exercise, and I crave the intellectual enrichment. Besides, this way, I can afford to let a few brain cells rot while getting my fill of Grey's Anatomy and the new season of American Idol. :p

In the meantime, 2006 ain't over yet, and I still have some Christmas shopping to do, presents to wrap, people to meet, parties to attend, a pink gown to put on for a wedding, and a slide show to put together for my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary on the 29th. Not to mention my cousins and I still have to formally rehearse the 2 Chinese songs we will be performing that night (we were bullied into it by our aunts and uncles-- I consider it penance for none of us having given our grandma great-grandkids up to now). I foresee the last 2 weeks of the year will be one helluva carnival ride, and at this rate, I may not have enough energy left at the end to wave 2006 goodbye.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why I love/hate/love the holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year, as the song goes, but Christmas always has me swinging between states of giddy/panicky, animated/weary, cheery/cranky, as I juggle my work (December's our peak season) with my social commitments (one barkada gathering after another). Not to mention I have to finish crossing out names on my shopping list and try valiantly to control my caloric intake (deli gift baskets and boxes of baked goodies pile up in our kitchen as my parents' friends make their gift-giving rounds). They say the holidays heighten stress levels for most adults, and I can see why: just trying to maintain your sanity while shopping for presents, attending company Christmas parties, and slogging through holiday traffic is enough to take its toll on anyone.

Saturday morning, my sister and I dragged our butts out of bed bright and early so that we could hit the Greenhills tiangge ahead of the crowds. After the 2 hours we spent there, all the cash in my wallet was gone (urk), my shoulders were sore from lugging around our purchases, and my feet ached from all the walking around we did. Every year, it gets harder and harder to shop for all my friends and family, because there are just so many of them, and I can't find personalized gifts for everyone, let alone the ideal gift for each. Plus my budget has to keep on stretching annually. It's difficult enough keeping track of who's on my list-- at one point, I had to call my best friend to ask her to remind me what I had given our high school barkada last year (I almost bought them the exact same things this time).

However, despite all the aggravation of Christmas shopping, I do enjoy it (and I'm not just being masochistic). Each name I write on my gifts-to-get list represents a person I value and care about, a person who has brought meaning and joy to my life, so the longer the list is, the richer I feel (ironic, considering the poorer I become after buying so many presents). Also, as cliched as it sounds, finding a nice gift for a friend or family member makes me happy, particularly when I get them something I just know they'll love, or are dying to have.

Of course, wrapping presents is a totally different matter. Thank goodness for my sister, who helps me wrap all my gifts (except the gifts I get her, of course :p).

Aside from the enjoyable/exhausting task of shopping, there's all the lunches/dinners/parties that fill up my calendar. Meeting up with old friends is always a treat, especially when a big barkada gathers and almost everyone makes it (case in point: today's lunch with my LM peeps). But
organizing barkada gatherings is tricky: reconciling different schedules and getting everyone to commit to a date and time, picking a place accessible and agreeable to the majority, texting everyone to inform them of changes in plan or to remind them to show up. However, going through all that is well worth the warm familiarity of being in the company of old friends-- friends with whom you share the hilarity of running jokes, with whom you exchange the latest updates on one another's failed/flourishing romances, to whom you rant about your job and rave about your latest TV addiction. It's times like these I am most strongly reminded of my favorite lesson from The Little Prince: it's the time you waste on your roses that makes them so important.

At Christmastime, I am acutely aware of all the people in my life who matter to me, and if only for that, it is my favorite time of the year, and certainly the most wonderful. I may be broke and sleep-deprived and bone tired, but during this season of love, I'm never running on empty.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mommy's day

This morning I got up an hour early to drop by ICA before going to the office. My special reason for visiting was to congratulate Gng. dela Rosa, whom I fondly call Mommy dela Rosa, for this afternoon, she is receiving the award for most outstanding teacher during ICA's annual Recognition Day ceremonies. When I found out she had finally won the award (I had nominated her 2 years ago), I was ecstatic. I simply adore this woman. In the short span of the 2 years I was a teacher, I looked up to Gng. dela Rosa as one of the most respectable, dignified, and competent members of the high school faculty. More importantly, she was warm, compassionate and loving, and it was so natural to regard her as a mother figure. Her students felt the same way about her, and very often I found myself envious that I never got to be Gng. dela Rosa's student. If only for that privilege, I wish I were actually an ICAn.

But whenever I was around her-- meetings of the 4th year teachers, conduct/graduation deliberations, chatting in the hallway between classes-- I always felt embraced by her aura of motherly love, and I felt ICAn enough. She cared, not just about whether students understood her El Filibusterismo lessons, or did well in talumpati; she cared about her students, period. She would notice if a kid was not acting like herself, or if she seemed upset about something. She would be concerned if a student's academic performance was slipping, and she would be relieved if she saw another student's grades improving. She would always give students the benefit of the doubt, and credit where credit was due. And she did all those for her colleagues as well. I remember one time, as the 4th year teachers were all sitting down for a meeting, she took one look at my haggard face and immediately asked me if I was feeling all right, and why I was looking so tired. In another instance, during my first year in ICA, we shared a brief conversation wherein she encouraged me to become an advisor the following year, saying that she believed I would make a great advisor. And yet another time, I caught her smiling at me and when I asked why, she squeezed my arm and just said, "Wala lang, natutuwa lang ako sa iyo." I appreciated her affirmation and affection so much, the little ways she would teach me, through her example, the kindness and generosity of spirit every teacher should have.

Gng. dela Rosa has so much heart, as a teacher, as a mother, as a friend. She is an inspiration to us all, and I can think of no one else more deserving of the award she will be receiving this afternoon. Congratulations, Mommy! :)

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Camwhore's collage

Over the weekend, I discovered what I could do with and my huge cache of digital photos. Check out my first finished product at my Multiply site.

While browsing through my pix, I realized I don't have any photos with my Charity and Faith classes from both the Cyrenz and the Zephyrz. :( I also have only one photo with my best friend (and it's a very fuzzy one taken with her cell phone), one with my mom, one with my favorite cousins from my dad's side and my mom's side (and I cheated by cropping what were originally group photos :p), and absolutely none with my grandparents. I can't believe I'm saying this, but dammit, I need to take more pix!

This camwhore's not leaving her digicam at home this holiday season.