The Return of eLf ideas

ideas of an eLven being in Canada

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

There and Back Again

July 25, 2006

Evening, friends Lhoy and Eugene came over. She helped me figure out the best route for my destination on Thursday: Tuxedo Villa on Corydon Avenue, the nursing institution where I'd be having my first whole-day orientation as a healthcare aide.

After calling the bus line, Lhoy with me had it all figured out:

To catch the first trip (5:35 a.m.) of Bus 33/Maples at the bus stop at Manila Street / Jefferson Avenue, I had to leave the house and start walking at around 5:00 a.m., because the walking distance is roughly 15 minutes.

I would alight Bus 33 at Portage Avenue / Vaughan, then walk a few meters away to reach the bus stop at Portage/Colony where I would board Bus 67/Charleswood. Then, I would alight at the bus stop near the corner of Tuxedo Avenue and Edgeland, near Southport. My landmark would be a Safeway store, from where Tuxedo Villa is just a stone's throw away. Thus, as soon as I see this Safeway, I could be rest assured that I'm at my destination.

My orientation is on Thursday, but I would try the route tomorrow; meaning, I would actually go to the place to get familiar with the bus transfers and the timing points. This way, I wouldn't feel wary of getting lost on Thursday and risk being late. I needed to be at the Station One of Tuxedo Villa 15 minutes before my call time of 7 a.m.

After dinner around 9 p.m. Tito Ren, Tita Lucy, and I went to the old house, on Selkirk, to get some remaining stuff and to launder Grandfather's clothes, which we would give to Salvation Army.

I also sorted out my clothes. Difficult as always, disposing old clothes made me a bit sad and nostalgic. Each piece that I put in the big black plastic bag stirred my mind. It was like disposing away for good many precious memories. Nonetheless, I'll try my best to keep in my heart such memories.

Finally, I put my remaining books in boxes and plastic bags. This made me realize once again that when it's time to buy my own house, there must really be a separate library. Yes, with all the books that I managed to add to my collection in my almost three years' stay here in Canada! And at the rate my itch to buy some more books, oh well.

We got back home, in Amber Trails, around 11 p.m. I thought of watching one DVD, but decided to start sleeping. "Discipline, aLfie! You have to wake up early in the morning."


Today, July 26, Wednesday

Would you believe that I fulfilled my plan of trying the route which I will take tomorrow, for my orientation at Tuxedo Villa?

Yes, I went this morning, around 5 a.m. and got back home at 9 a.m. It was a cool joyride! At least, tomorrow I won't feel uneasy having to check out the time or every bus stop to see whether I'm on the right track or I'm already getting lost.

I've always trusted my body clock. I'm someone who doesn't need an alarm clock. Even back in the Philippines, I could wake up early in the morning when I needed to. The only problem was/is, I always wake up usually an hour ahead, get back to nap, and then wake up again at the scheduled time. So, to prevent this, I'm giving in. In case I get the healthcare-aide job on a regular basis, I will buy an alarm clock, so I can have a smooth, unbroken sleep.

4:52 a.m. - woke/got up; washed my hair/face, rinsed my mouth (I took a bath last night before sleeping); ate breakfast (boiled egg); dressed up; checked my stuff

5:10 - left the house, started walking to the bus stop at the corner of Manila Street and Jefferson Avenue; reached the stop at around 5:30; the sky was pale blue, the morning breeze was a bit cold

5:40 - Bus 33/Maples arrived; there were already a number of passengers, more than I expected

6:20 - alighted at the corner of Portage Avenue and Vaughan; walked towards the bus stop at the corner of Portage and Colony, and waited for my next bus

6:25 - Bus 67/Charleswood arrived; boarded

6:40 - reached the area of Tuxedo Avenue, Edgeland, and Corydon Avenue; saw the Safeway but didn't alight (at least, I know now where to go tomorrow; continued my joyride...the bus went past Assiniboine Park until its final stop at Roblin. I remained in the bus, on its return to Downtown Winnipeg

7:30 - Bus 67 is back at Portage; alighted and waited for Bus 33 at the same stop, Portage/Vaughan; bus arrived at 7:40

8:45 - alighted Bus 33, I'm back at the corner of Manila and Jefferson; walked back home; the sun is up

9:00 - I'm back home!

At least tomorrow, all I need to do is follow the same timing and routine, and I'd no longer worry about getting lost or missing stops.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Taking Off

"Tomorrow I'll begin again
With heavy head to hold it
As I do it all like yesterday
Yeah I'll break it out again
And morning I'll be there in time
For clock back move
And make it for a while
To get through every day
I'll roll it out the same..."--The Cure, "Taking Off" (2004, The Cure)

July 25, 2006

My one-hour orientation at A&W Restaurant yesterday went fine. There were three of us new hirees; with me were a Caucasian guy and an Indian girl. The trainer just walked us through the basics, which included company goals, safe food handling, precautionary measures during emergency situations, and the floor plan of the store. She said that we would start working as soon as our uniforms were ready, sometime this week; and that the rest of what we ought to learn we would learn as we begin working.
I wake up this morning in a haze. It's drizzling. The sky is gloomy. Lest it starts to affect my mood, I immediately boot my PC so I can perk myself up with takeoff songs while I prepare my brunch. I'm staying home today. I'll call the healthcare agency in a little while, to ask about the schedule of my on-the-job orientation as a healthcare aide.

I might just watch DVDs or listen to music after brunch, after I have alloted an hour or so to my homestudy. I'm already on Module 3 of 4 of my correspondence course, Social Psychology. The topic is interesting: interpersonal relationships, how people relate to his fellow beings.
While at Polo Park Shopping Centre last Saturday, I checked out HMV, a music and video shop. I bought a copy of the special extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, which was on sale for only C$19.99. I'm now complete! Two years ago I bought The Two Tower and The Return of the King each for C$35! I'm glad I caught the fellowship on sale.

My takeoff songs today:

A Flock of Seagulls - The More You Live, The More You Love
a-ha - The Sun Always Shines on TV

Anything Box - Soul on Fire
The Armoury Show - We Can Be Brave
Ash - Shining Light
The Ataris - Boys of Summer
Aztec Camera - Walk Out to Winter
Barenaked Ladies - Everything Old Is New Again
Billy Idol - Blue Highway
The Bolshoi - Modern Man
Boo Radleys, the - Wake Up, Boo!
British Sea Power - Please Stand Up
Care - Flaming Sword
The Church - Spark
The Cure - Taking Off
Duran Duran - Taste the Summer
Echo & the Bunnymen - Get in the Car
Fossil - Moon
The Housemartins - Happy Hour
James - What For
The Lightning Seeds - Marvellous
Manic Street Preachers - A Design for Life
Modern English - Spinning Me Round
Monaco - Shine
New Order - All the Way
Popsicle - Histrionics
Skyray - Skyray Is Love
The Smiths - This Charming Man
Spandau Ballet - Highly Strung
Tears for Fears - The Way You Are
The Tears - Refugees
The Waterboys - The Return of Pan
The Wild Swans - Young Manhood

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Golden Handshake

July 24, 2006

At the moment I'm waiting for my friend Sonny to arrive, who offered to drop me off at A&W Restaurant for my one-hour work orientation.

Songs playing on my media player to gear me up:

Talking Heads - (Nothing But) Flowers
Rupert Everett - Generation of Loneliness
Tommy Conwell & the Young Rumblers - I'm Seventeen
Toad the Wet Sprocket - All I Want
The Room - New Dreams for Old
Roman Holiday - Don't Try to Stop It
The Sun & the Moon - Peace in Our Time
China Crisis - A Golden Handshake for Every Daughter

Sunday, July 23, 2006

When It Rains

"No one sees your tears when it's raining..."—Ten Ten

July 23, 2006

First of all, I'd like to thank the Supreme Being for the good things that It starts to lay on my path since Grandfather's last days.

Only a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling a bit impatient concerning finding a job. But—thanks to the hardships that I recently experienced—my patience has never been stretched like this.

Last week I've been longing already to have a job. Now, I'm faced with the tough possibility of having to juggle two jobs at the same time! I know that this will be a bit difficult, considering that I am at the moment still a bus commuter (I'm still on driving lessons and with no car yet of my own), but I want to believe that I have the capacity to deal with this. Let's see. I'm not a juggling jester for nothing.

I started to scout for jobs a month ago, but the two jobs I finally got (the other one, however, is still tentative; please cross your fingers with me) came to me in a seeming flash of luck.

Last Wednesday, one of the friends (who has a car) who accompany me in my job hunting was unavailable. I didn't let the day pass without accomplishing something. I didn't want to stay in the house and brood all day. So, I decided to jobhunt on my own. The only challenge is, the distance from the house where I stay to the nearest bus stop is about 30 minutes' walk. I went anyways, thinking that I would be doing this routine soon when I finally begin regular work.

Anyway, I dropped by at the A&W Restaurant on Keewatin near Burrows and asked for an application form. I filled out the form and submitted it along with a copy of my resume to the bespectacled Caucasian guy at the counter. I was about to left after saying thank you when the guy asked me if I could stick around so he could interview me right away. That was when I realized that he was a store manager.

After skimming the application form and my resume, the store manager asked me if I was willing to work any shift and how long I could be staying with them in case I get hired. You know, the usual line of questioning during typical job interviews. After several minutes, he said, "Okay, I'll hire you. Are you okay with a starting of C$7.75 per hour? Anyway, I can give you 8 hours a day and 5 days a week? You can choose between 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m."

I was really surprised, caught offguard. I was not expecting a quick result like that. But of course I was thrilled, because that job arrived in a flash; and eventhough I'm obviously overqualified for the position of a service crew, here in Canada this is the way to start. Just get any job so you can start earning and saving, but don't stop looking for better job opportunities.

CH Health & Home Care Services
As I said, I wouldn't stop looking for better job opportunities. So, the next day, Thursday, I went out again. I returned to this company needing healthcare aides, to submit the criminal-check documents they required. This healthcare services is located in downtown Winnipeg. Right there and then, they presented me the job contract. The stipulations were okay (as well as the pay, C$12 per hour, which was C$5 above minimum wage!) so I accepted the offer. I'd call them on Monday for the schedules of the preliminary training. This is, by the way, an agency; so I would be despatched to several institutions.

My dilemma right now is how to juggle my time in order for me to accommodate these two jobs in one day, considering that I'll just be riding buses; and to think that the two locations are very far apart from each other.

My initial plan is this, I will ask A&W if they could give me only a daily (six-hour) 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift; so I can accept a (four-hour) 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. part-time shift from the healthcare services. This way, I can have a 2-hour gap which would be my bus travel time from A&W to whatever nursing institution I'd be assigned at.

This is another realization that, in Canada especially where I am, having your own transportation is a necessity. Imagine, if you're driving your own vehicle, you can easily cover a one-hour bus trip (considering the stops and the winding, circular routes) in just about twenty minutes. In that case, you save a lot of time and a lot of energy spent in having to wait for and transfer buses. And this is only Summer! What more come Winter time! Taxicabs then? No way! A five-minute taxi trip will already cost you around $12. That's already a big cut on one's daily wages...the amount of a brand new pocketbook. Well, it's okay if you'll rely on this once in a while, but every day? No way!

Anyway, I'm only laying out a bigger picture of what to expect in the coming days, now that I'm already to start entering the world as an employed citizen once again.

As soon as I received these new big blessings, I texted my best-friend Rain to share with him the news. Always the fair and reasonable one as well as my most-trusted confidante, Rain replies with a reference from one of our favorite New Wave songs:

"Nice to hear good news from u. Gud luck on ur jobs, don't end up w/ MOZ's ''Heaven knows i'm miserable now.''

I'll always keep that in mind. I surely will.

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour
But heaven knows I'm miserable now
I was looking for a job, and then I found a job

And heaven knows I'm miserable now
In my life

Why do I give valuable time
To people who don't care if I live or die?
The Smiths (Morrissey/Marr), "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (1984, Hatful of Hollow)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Who'll Stop the Rain?

July 21, 2006

Yesterday, I dropped by the office of CH Health & Home Care Services, which posted on a Web site a job vacancy for healthcare aides. It was located on Donald Street in downtown Winnipeg. Fortunately, my cousin Shelley (whose family lives on the same street I live here) was dropping off cousin Weng as well. In short, I went along with them. I was supposed to be dropped off at the nearest bus stop, but kind Shelley offered to bring me to the place.

I found the office. It was an agency that despatches healthcare aides to various nursing homes. I filled out an application form and submitted a copy of my resume. The receptionist asked me to procure a Criminal Record Clearance (similar to Philippines' NBI clearance) at the Public Safety Building and a Child Abuse Registry Clearance. Luckily, these places were in the vicinity. I didn't waste the day, so I proceeded to get the documents. I got the CRC; but not the CAR because I didn't have ID photos with me. I'd be returning tomorrow.

Still early, around 4:30 p.m., so I decided to stroll downtown. The weather was sunny warm. A nice day for a leisurely walk. While on Princess Street, I chanced upon a used-books store named Aqua Books. I checked out the place. After spending about an hour skimming through the bookshelves, I went not without a few books purchased:

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, 1996, Touchstone
One Hundred Modern Poems, edited by Selden Rodman, 1949, Signet Classics
To My Husband & Other Poems by Anne Bradstreet, 2000, Dover Thrift Editions
George Lucas (biography) by Dana White, 2000, Learner Publications
Weird Sister by Kate Pullinger, 1999, McArthur
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Classical Music by Lionel Salter, 1978, Salamander

All these for only C$23.32.

Around 5 p.m. I rode the bus home.

I'm now eating lunch; afterwards, I'd go out again, to get my Child Abuse Registry clearance which I'd submit to the healthcare agency I visited yesterday.

Again, I'm among the unemployed citizens of the world. I will never stop until I get a good job. What's important is I have the skills and the willingness to work. All I need is perseverance, patience, and a dose of good luck and wishes from all of you.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bringing Home the Ashes

"Goodbye, king of sorrow
The curse of a thousand years beneath the globe
Worn down and hardly breathing...

Bringing home the ashes
Is more than I can bear
When winter lightning flashes
You'll find me lonely there..."--The Wild Swans (1988, Bringing Home the Ashes)

Grandfather's ashes is finally with us. This afternoon, as soon as I got home from job hunting in downtown Winnipeg, I saw the urn. I spent several minutes just standing there, staring at it in seeming disbelief. It fascinates and perplexes me in an inexplicable way. Just a few weeks ago, Grandfather was alive in the hospital, body and all. Now, he's reduced into ashes contained in a golden urn. Whatever he had become of, Grandfather's memory will live in me till the rest of my life.

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

"I have climbed highest mountain
I have run through the fields

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for..."—U2 (1987, Joshua Tree)

July 20, 2006

A month has passed since the day I started to look for jobs. The first batch of works to which I applied as a healthcare aide comprised of nursing homes and hospitals. No calls nor results yet until now. But I'm still keeping my fingers crossed and holding my hopes high. Fortunately, I don't feel any pressures or disappointments about this, unlike during the mid-'90s when I was still in the Philippines and inbetween jobs--I remember feeling helpless and hopeless after months of looking for jobs but in vain. Perhaps because my patience has really been tested and stretched during the last almost three years of my life.

I graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. I didn't rest anymore after my schooling; right away, I took the first (June) batch of Nursing Licensure Examination, which I passed, fortunately.

Around September of the same year, I began scouting for jobs in the classified-ad section of the newspapers. Some friends told me that working as a Medical Representative was cool. In fact, it was one of the coolest and nice-paying jobs during those days. So, my first target job was it. Then did I see the ad: Ashford-Vendiz Intl., a pharmaceutical company, looking for medical representatives... I cut the ad and went to the office the same day. Luckily, I was considered. I had to endure a month-and-a-half paid training period before I finally landed the job. That was my first job.

1992. I was assigned in the Manila area including UST Hospital, Family Clinic Hospital, St. Jude Hospital, and Mary Help of Christians Hospital. I had a great experience working as a pharmaceutical representative. I got to familiarized myself well with drugs and medications, particularly antibiotics and dermal and ophthalmological products. My love for details helped me a lot in this job. I also got to polish my communication skills, for I had to deal with drugstore attendants, physicians, nurses, and other people working in the medical field. I was doing well in this job. However, I soon realized that working in the "sales/marketing department" was not really my thing. I'm a moody person; a little bit manic-depressive in the sense that there are times when I can be so talkative and gregarious but also moments when I get so quiet and solitary; and this kind of personality is a no-no for a salesperson, who must be energetic and on-the-go all the time. I reached that moment when the fluctuating nature of my sales reports began to affect my drive to work. I remember finding terrible difficulty in getting up in the morning to go to work, because I no longer enjoyed what I was doing. In short, I quit the job after a year. I was a pharmaceutical representative from October of 1992 to October of the following year. But I was the top applicant during the orientation. I remember topping every exam and impressing the bosses during the battery of panel interviews. I also remember one of my bosses' telling me not to resign, for he found in me an exceptional skills in the "mental" area. He said that he could transfer me from the field to the office department. But I wanted to move on and have a break from that exhausting year of having to comb that area of Manila, visiting virtually every hospital, drugstore, and clinic to promote the company's products. Thus, I didn't accept the offer. I'd rather chosen to become unemployed.

1993-1995. As soon as I became jobless, I devoted my time with my band Half Life Half Death. From 1993 to 1995, I did nothing but play in the band. I had no clear direction during those days. I depended on my mom for my gimmick allowance, especially that my band was just a hobby band. This period of my life was the most useless, careerwise; but in retrospect, I would say that being in a band that had its little share of fame and glory in the Philippine Alternative Music scene has helped me in so many ways. I had become more gregarious. It boost my self-confidence to heights. I became relatively known. In fact, my having been in a band made me unique and popular in the succeeding jobs that I had. But it also had its downside. Many people used to have wrong impressions about me. As soon as they learned that I was in a band, they associated that to being intellectually inferior. But, I learned not to get affected. But I always had to exert extra effort just to prove them wrong.

1996. My mom used to call me "batugan" during the times when I did nothing but attend band gigs and other gimmicks with friends. I couldn't blame her. I remember always waking up late in the afternoon. After lunch, friends would pick me up and off we went to band practices or gimmicks. I would come home late in the wee hours of the morning. That was my routine. One good thing was, I was never in a bad company. My bandmates and best-friends mostly comprised of my highschool friends, so my mom was never worried. The best thing I survived with my having been in a band for quite a long time was, I never got into drinking, smoking, and doing drugs. And I'm damn well very proud of this. I continue to dispel the rotten belief that when you're in a band, you must as well be a drinker, smoker, or worse, a drug user. My friends and many people who say they know me well can attest to this--that my passion for music has always been enough to get me high. However, as friends used to tell only vice was girls. Yes, I had my more than fair share of flings and relationships in my life. Heartaches... heartbreaks. Either I was the heartbreaker or I was the brokenhearted. Don't ask me anymore how many girls I fell in love or in lust with, for I might just make your jaws drop because of disbelief. But, hey, I was once a rockstar in my own rights! Okay, enough of this stuff, before someone accuses me of being conceited. Besides, that's another story. But, I never had any regrets about this. I learned so much from this aspect of my life. This contributed much to my having developed self-control (for I've already tasted so much, so to speak) and achieved some kind of a contentment early in life.

1996-1999. The second-most fulfilling career that I had in my life in the Philippines: at Quorum-Lanier (Phils.) Inc., a litigation company specializing in document analysis and data encoding. I started as a coder and climbed my way up to being a coding supervisor. I would say that whatever achievement I had in the company was a result of hard work and perseverance and continuing education. Of course, with help from supportive supervisors and managers who tapped my skills and helped me develop these. Also, I gained a lot of great friends and acquaintances from this company--individuals most of whose faces and personalities remain etched in my heart, as well as to whose minds I remain to this day an unforgettable character. Also, I entered this company without a knowledge in using a computer; I left with a treasure of computer-related skills. Sadly, the company had to retrench its workforce in 1999, and I was one of the casualties. I was already a supervisor back then, so I felt that I had a responsibility not to show emotions during that day. Deep inside I was devastated of course, but I had to appear strong in front of my staff. Until that last day, I remember giving hope and comfort to those who, like me, lost their jobs.

When I lost my job at Quorum, the person I first called was my mom. I remember I was crying when I told her over the phone that I no longer had a job. I was so devastated because I regarded my post there as a dream job. I loved what I was doing, I was earning so much, and I had many friends. Then, all of a sudden, most was lost. But, as what I always told my staff during seminars and learning sessions:

"Every time we encounter an obstacle lying on our path, we are usually left without a choice but to deal with it first before hurdling past it." And I try to practice what I preach. Until now.

So, I moved on. Again, I was among the tens of thousands of unemployed in 1999. And to think that the new millennium was fast approaching.

(It was at Quorum where I first explored my skills in writing, by way of starting a newsletter called eLf ideas. This will be a perfect time to express my gratitude to the following persons, who believed in my abilities and shared with me so many fruitful expriences. To this day, I carry in my heart the affection and trust they once bequeathed me: cousin Brian Mella-Medina (without whom I wouldn't have been at Quorum in the first place), Evaristo "Barry" Suarez, Remedios "Remie" Del Rosario, Ma'am Olive, Alex Arao, Joel Bohol, Daune, Bong Remedios, Natz, Tolaitz, Nookie, Melchor, Badette Sunga, Celga, Alvin Patolot, Dang, Arnel, Myles, and so many more whose faces I remember but whose names are at the moment hidden somewhere in the corners of my mind.

In late 1999, I had a short stint as a faculty evaluator at De La Salle University at Taft Ave. I worked there for only a month, but for me no moment is short to learn many things. This job was also fulfilling for I had to deal with professors and students, gaining so many new insights and realizing once again that, in the Philippines, having your education at a prestigious school really counts a lot. I would have stayed long, but my supervisor told me that my being there was a misplacement on my part. She told me that, with my skills, I should be somewhere more challenging and more highly paying. I didn't understand her that time, for the last thing in my mind during those economically troubled times was finding myself without a job once more. In short, despite my good performance, my contract was not renewed. In retrospect, I would like to thank that supervisor, Mariapaz Trinidad, for letting me go in order for me to find something more worthwhile and in line with my talent and skills.

2000. I finally got my dream job, as an editor/writer. From 2000 to the year I left the Philippines, 2003, I was working at Diwa Scholastic Press Inc. as the editor/writer of scholastic magazines on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature which included Bato Balani, a popular supplementary highschool magazine in the Philippines. In this job where I learned so much. It rekindled my love for knowledge which I had in elementary and highschool. This was also the period when I got to polish my skills in English Grammar. I will never forget those days (and nights) when fellow editors like Jayge Salvan, John Ponsaran, Shella Montemayor, Elline Perey, and bosses like Dan Cruz and Joseph would spend moments editing even the littlest grammatical and punctuation blunders. Because of this job, I further gained so many friends--not just ordinary friends, but respectable individuals from the "education department" of life. That was one of the reasons I left my post in 2003 with a heavy heart, finally to go to Canada as a live-in caregiver.

And most of my experiences during the last three years of my life, here in Canada, I was able to document through this blog site.

Whew, what a rollercoaster ride!

Now, my adventure continues...

I want to give special thanks to my friends Jimmy Olais and Rodolfo Roscueta for their assistance and most especially for giving me free rides every time I look for jobs. If not for them, I would be unable to drop by several places in one day just to submit copies of my resume.

Yesterday, July 19, Wednesday, I passed by an A&W Restaurant one-bus-ride away from our place. I filled out an application form and submitted a copy of my resume. Fortunately, the store manager was there. When I submitted the form, he told me to wait so he could interview me right there and then. After the typical job interview, he told me that I was hired! Of course, I was surprised. He took my size for the uniform and discussed about my salary. I would be assigned either at the counter or in the kitchen. The salary is just a little above the minimum wage here. But that's okay with me. Anyway, if this pushes through I'll be working every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., which means I'll be working fulltime; and besides, I can still look for a second job which will keep me further busy from 3:30 p.m. till nighttime. But of course, I won't stop looking for better job opportunities. I just don't want to stay jobless for so long, especially that I'm now on my own. Besides, having a job will always be better than having no job at all.

Today, I went to check out an homecare-services agency in downtown Winnipeg which hires healthcare aides. I filled out an application form and submitted the requirements. I'm not expecting immediate results, but at least, I have something to look forward to.

Just wish me luck that I may soon find a job which will, again, give me fulfilment--careerwise and salarywise.

What's more important right now is I'm alive, full of hope and dreams, and finally free to think about myself.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"God Only Cries"

July 17, 2006

Another week. Another peek at the looming light at the end of wherever I may be going. I'm alive! Feeling recharged and refreshed, I'm writing now yet another, new chapter in my book of life.

I can see the gloomy clouds that shadowed me for quite sometime now waving goodbye. I'm sure that this farewell is never eternal, but at least I am able to emerge from such a dark long tunnel, still whole.

I still think of Grandfather once in a while. There are moments when I thought that he was just there at the hospital, staring out the window while waiting for me to feed him—and this brings me to near tears.

But as a jester always proclaims,

Kahit ano pa man ang mangyari
Tuluy-tuloy pa rin ang palabas.
Sa entablado, ako ang hari.

My sense of ownership to my life seemingly stopped for almost three years. I thank Fate, I very well feel that I'm slowly gaining momentum. I'm ready now for whatever new trials You have left on my path. I think I have been in my slowest and saddest state, and I survived it unscathed, so I believe that I have the power now to face any new obstacles.

Like fireflies at night,
I glow amidst misery.
I'll keep up the fight
'Til I reach eternity.
I will face my destiny.

Sharing an e-mail I received today from a friend:

Hello Alfie,

Please accept my sincerest condolences on the recent passing of your Lolo. Having been a frequent visitor to your blog I have been able to follow the emotional rollercoaster that you have been on over the past year or so.

I know that your sadness mingles with relief and excitement—what with all the possibilities and opportunities that have opened up for you. I wish you the best, and I hope still to be able to read about my favorite eLf's further adventures.

Kindest regards,

I was listening to the radio while driving home from work, and I heard this song by a group called Diamond Rio being played. I'm not really a fan of country music, but I couldn't help but think of you and your grandpa while it was playing (particularly the 3rd stanza). The song is titled "God Only Cries."

On an icy road one night
A young man loses his life
They marked the shoulder with a cross
An' his family gathers round
On a piece of Hallowed ground
Their hearts are heavy with their loss
As the tears fall from their eyes
There's one who'll always sympathise.

God only cries for the living
'Cause it's the living that are left to carry on
An' all the angels up in Heaven
They're not grieving because they're gone
There's a smile on their faces
'Cause they're in a better place than, mmm, baby, than, oh
God only cries for the living
'Cause it's the living that are so far from home

It still makes me sad
When I think of my Granddad
I miss him each and every day
But I know the time will come
When my own grandson
Wonders why I went away
Maybe we're not meant to understand
Till we meet up in the Promised Land

God only cries for the living
'Cause it's the living that are left to carry on
And all the angels up in Heaven
They're not grieving because they're gone
There's a smile on their faces
'Cause they're in a better place than, oh, baby, than, oh
God only cries for the living'
Cause it's the living that are so far from home
Yeah, we're so far from home, mmm, mmm

As I write this entry the song plays on my media player. Thank you, Steve, for this song.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

"You Don't Know"

July 15, 2006

Last night's viewing of Grandfather at Knysh Funeral Chapel went well. I'll just post pictures and recount the details later. In thirty minutes, we're heading St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church for the mass. Grandfather's cremation will follow afterwards in Selkirk, Manitoba.

I woke up this morning craving to hear a particular New Wave song to which I haven't listened for a long time. It's playing now on my media player in repeat mode.

Scarlett & Black - "You Don't Know"

Friday, July 14, 2006

My Favorite Painting on the Wall

Originally posted on September 14, 2005
"That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive.
Every time the two of us are at the dining table, having lunch or afternoon snack, Grandfather and I couldn't help being distracted by the paintings on the wall; not that the paintings are conspicuous or extraordinary but chiefly because the routinary life that both of us have been sharing for the past two years and counting has rendered our minds either too jaded to think or overly critical about the most trivial of things.

Until now I couldn't believe that I've gone this far. I mean, don't ever think that I've finally got accustomed to this kind of life. Believe me, I may have finally escaped from a seeming limbo but still, boredom and homesickness continue to afflict my mind and heart like an incurable disease.

Anyway, as what I always say to myself in times when depression creeps back into my heart,

Better still-not-good than worst. Better a soft warm bed at a small house in the company of the seven dwarfs than on the floor of a big house with a big bad wolf. Ha!

Every time Grandfather and I are at the dining table, the paintings on the wall keep on distracting our eyes. From now on I would no longer forget how they look. Eyes closed, I see them all the more vividly. They haunt me. They stir my mind. They aggravate my restlessness.

Every time we are at the dining table, we talk even about the most trivial of things. I remember one entire afternoon we spent conversing about houseflies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. Pathetic! But can we help it?

Every time we are at the dining table, Grandfather and I talk about almost anything. Believe you me, if Grandfather were a book, no doubt I would have been the author.

At 90, Grandfather is still relatively active; but I'm realizing that a part of my task as his caregiver is to gradually let my relatives realize that Grandfather is not getting any better. Such an easy task!, one might readily quip. But when you're the one who bears the responsibility and the burden on your shoulders, the situation becomes difficult. The unnecessary and unfounded feelings of guilt become inevitable and inescapable. When Grandfather has a cough or stomachache or feels dizzy, I feel like I'm the culprit. I feel like my efforts are not enough. I know, I know—that no one, not even the doctors, has such small hands.... Yet still, the pangs of guilt are too sharp to endure.

What do we expect? Of course, Grandfather's health is deteriorating. He gets tired now more easily. Prodding him to eat—before was a feat—has now become an ordeal. He no longer remembers what he ate during the last meal or where we went yesterday or, worse, what he was looking for.

I woke up one early morning, about 5 or something, and saw restless Grandfather was already up and about. I asked him what he was doing.

He replied: "Looking for something."

"Looking for what?" I asked.

"Anungaba? [I dunno, I forgot]," was all he could muster.

I just uttered a smile of understanding and said: "Pa, it's still early. Go back to sleep. Later you'll surely find what you're looking for."

Oh well. Patience. More patience, Padawan eLf.

But, that laughable incident sent me yet again to thinking...

Aren't we all like that at many points in our lives—looking for something we do not know or understand? Trying restlessly to explore and conquer the great big unknown? I wonder how many did succeed.

A watercolor painting of mushrooms. If only opportunities are like mushrooms, which, as they say, sprout everywhere; then life would have been much easier. But where's the challenge? Oh well. Enough of such challenges! I've been challenged all my life. Enough of this! Where's my reward? I want it now!

When will I finally be able to start a family of my own? All I really want are a kind and lovely wife (I already found her), three intelligent children (we are yet to work on this on my return to the Philippines), and a simple home but full of love.

I always count the animals in this picture: 20. This is my most favorite art hanging on the wall, perhaps because I'm fond of animals. I used to have lots of animal pets back when I was young: fishes, white mice, hamsters, rabbits, puppies, turtles...and also pet plants, especially different varieties of cacti.

Kaylan kaya ako muling
Sasakay ng eroplano,
At lalapag sa ’yong piling?

I told Grandfather: "If ever I already have my own house, expect to see lots of paintings on the wall." Then, I asked him: "How, do you think, will I arrange the paintings so that visitors will always notice first my favorite painting?"

After what seemed eternity, Grandfather gave up: "How?"

I took my pen and a sheet of bond paper, and then I made the sketch below. "Now, Pa," I said to him, "suppose these rectangles are the paintings on the wall, which, do you think, is my favorite?"

"I call that piece a wonder, now...."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ode to Grandfather


At natapos ang prusisyon

.On July 8, 2006, Saturday, Conrado Lanuza Vera Sr., 91, passed away peacefully at Seven Oaks General Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Ada, and son Rodolfo (wife, Rosita).

Conrado is survived by his children—Conrado Jr. (wife, Norma, deceased), Roberto (wife, Hedeliza), Carmelita (husband, Mercurio Arado), Teresita (husband, Edgar Mella), Renato (wife, Lucina), and Gerardo (wife, Ethel); grandchildren—Leah, Ferdinand, Soccoro, David; Bernard, Allan, Joel, Ronald, Warren; Michael, Heinjie, Kenneth, Jinky; Alfie, Lovella, Karen, Kimberly, Niña Rica; Ivan, Davin; Tristan and Trisha; and 18 great-grandchildren.

A viewing will be held on July 14, Friday, 6 p.m. to midnight, at Knysh Funeral Chapel, 1020 Main Street.

In the morning of the next day, a mass will be celebrated at St. Joseph Church on Mountain Avenue. Cremation follows afterwards.

Sandosenang Berso para kay Lolo
At si Lolo'y pumanaw na...
Tibok ng puso'y huminto't
Tuluyan nang di huminga.
'gang sa huli n'yang hininga,
Ako'y nasa kanyang tabi.
Alay ko'y patak ng luha.
Ako'y nakasisiguro,
Di na s'ya mahihirapan;
Tungo n'ya'y sa paraiso.
Tapos nang pagbabantay ko.
Pamana n'ya'y kalayaan.
Makauusad na ako.
Nakalulungkot isipin
Na si Lolo ay wala na.
Mabigat din sa damdamin.
Hindi ko malilimutan
Iniwan n'yang alaala.
Andami kong natutunan.
S'ya naman ang magsisilbing
Tagabantay ko sa buhay.
Sa puso'y laging kapiling.
Di ako dapat kabahan.
.Sa panibagong pagsubok,
Lalak'san ang kalooban.
At natapos ang prusisyon.
.'haba ng aking ginapang.
At muli akong babangon.
Kung may dilim, may liwanag.
Ganyan talaga ang buhay;
Hindi dapat maging duwag.
Kahapon, ngayon, at bukas;
Kahit anupa'ng mangyari,
Walang tigil ang palabas.
Sa muling pakikibaka,
Baon ko ay karanasan,
Sandata ko ay pag-asa.

Pasasalamat para kay Lolo

July 11, 2006 Tuesday

Sa lahat ng mga bumati at nag-alay ng dasal para kay Lolo, na pumanaw noong Sabado, July 8...SALAMAT SA INYONG LAHAT.

Alam kong karamihan sa inyo e nasubaybayan ang buhay ko rito sa Canada, lalo na ang aking naging karanasan bilang tagapag-alaga ng lolo ko nang halos tatlong taon. Salamat sa inyo. Malaki ang naitulong ng Internet, na patuloy na nagbibigay sa akin ng libangan, diversion from sadness and homesickness; higit sa lahat, ang tulay at bintana ko sa aking pamilya't mga mahal sa buhay sa Pilipinas at mga kaibigan sa iba't ibang sulok ng mundo.

Sa mga kaibigan, nakakakuha ako palagi ng lakas at source of hope. Mga kaibigang patuloy ko pang makakasama, makakausap, o makakasalamuha sa mahaba pang panahon.


Okey naman ako. Malungkot, syempre, kasi nawalan na ako ng lolo, nawalan pa ng matalik na kaibigan. Halos araw-gabi ba naman kaming magkasama e, kaya parang best friends na rin ang turingan namin ni Lolo.Nakakausap ko siya nang parang magka-edad lang kami. Minsan mistula na rin akong nobenta anyos mag-isip na gaya niya; minsan naman e siya ang nagmimistulang bata at sinasabayan ang mga hilig at pinagkakaabalahan ko. Pero, ang mahalaga, nagkaintindihan kami. Nagagalit sa isa't isa paminsan-minsan. Nagkakasabihan ng mga problema at frustrations sa buhay. Nagtatampuhan. Ganyan naman ang tunay na magkaibigan, di ba? Galit, bati; pero sa dulo ay kayong dalawa pa rin ang magdadamayan...lalo na kapag ang isa ay nangangailangan ng tulong--pinansyal man o tapik lang sa balikat.


Pero higit sa lahat, ang pinakamalaking natutunan ko sa pagiging companion ni Lolo sa mahabang panahon...

Laging i-maintain ang communication sa mga mahal sa buhay--family and friends--saan man sila naroroon, para lagi mo silang nakakausap kahit sa telepono o sulat o Internet man lang.

Maging generous hindi lamang materially kundi lalo na sa affection, words of hope and encouragement, and concern and empathy.

Respect others' beliefs. Ang motto ni Lolo na nagkapareho kami ay eto:

"Gawin mo ang kung ano ang makapagpapasaya sa iyo, basta ba wala kang napeperwisyo at pineperwisyo."

Yang si Lolo, ni hindi ko kinaringgan ng masamang puna sa ibang tao--anuman ang relihiyon at lahi nito. Sa kanya, pare-pareho ang lahat ng tao.

Sa pagtanda ng isang tao e maaalala ng kapwa n'ya ang lahat ng nagawa at nasabi nito nung bata pa s'ya--kaya kung kabutihan ang lagi nilang maaalala, hindi sila mag-aatubili na arugain ito o isipin at ipagdasal man lang.

Sincere na ngiti lang e masaya na si Lolo. Ganyan kasimple ang ligaya n'ya.


Of course, may mga flaws rin naman si Lolo. Karaniwan kapag nagsasalita tayo ng tungkol sa taong namatay e pulos iyong mabubuti lang. Si Lolo e meron din namang mga kaugaliang hindi ko nagustuhan, pero sa akin na lang iyon. Tutal, mas marami naman ang mga mabubuting parte ng kanyang pagkatao, kaya natabunan nito ang mga hindi masyado maganda. Pero, hindi ko na pagtutuunan ng pansin ang mga negatibong bagay na 'yan. Ang mahalaga, maraming mabubuting bagay na nagawa si Lolo hindi lamang sa angkan kundi sa mga kaibigan n'ya na rin.

Siguro kung may isang taong lubos na nakakilala sa tunay na pagkatao ng lolo ko e ako iyon. Dahil nga itinuring na n'ya akong matalik na kaibigan; naikwento n'ya sa akin ang napakaraming karanasan lalo na nung s'ya'y bata pa.Makulay ang buhay ni Lolo. Andami kong aral na napulot. Andami kong natutunan. Andami kong gagayahin. Marami din naman akong iiwasan. Ganyan naman dapat ang tao--bukas ang mata't tenga sa lahat ng bagay, subalit matalas ang isipan--kayang salain ang bawat nalalaman at natutunan--pinipili lamang ang makabubuti sa sarili at kapwa.


Masaya rin naman ako at pumanaw na si Lolo, dahil hindi na siya mahihirapan. Kung nakita n'yo lang ang kalagayan n'ya sa mga huling taon ng buhay n'ya--lalo na nung na-confine na s'ya sa hospital--3 months s'ya roon hanggang namatay na nga--kung paano s'ya laging namimilipit sa sakit at napapaungol na lang; hindi na makapagsalita. Hirap na hirap lunukin ang pagkain. Ultimo tubig e hindi na matanggap ng lalamunan n'ya. Halos 2 oras lagi ang iginugugol ko sa pagpapakain sa kanya. Naisip ko kasi na kung hindi ako nagtitiyaga e sino pa ang papalit sa akin sa ganoong klaseng pag-aalaga. Kaya mabuti na rin at namahinga na s'ya nang tuluyan.


Masaya ako, higit sa lahat, dahil malaya na ako. Wala na akong aalagaan nang gaya ng ginawa kong pagsisilbi kay Lolo. Makapag-iisip na akong mabuti para naman sa sarili kong buhay na inuumpisahan ko na rito.


Siya naman. Siya naman ang siguradong nagbabantay sa bawat hakbang ko, saan man siya naroroon.


Muli, salamat sa lahat. Hindi na ako magbabanggit ng pangalan ng mga bumati at nagparamdam ng kanilang condolences; baka may malimutan pa ako.


On Friday, July 14, 2006, 6 p.m. to 12 midnight, my grandfather Conrado Lanuza Vera Sr. (1915-2006), will be at Knysh Funeral Chapel, 1020 Main Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba. To friends in Winnipeg, I invite you all to see him for the last time.

A mass will be held for him in the morning of the next day, July 15, at St. Joseph's Church on Mountain Ave., Winnipeg.He will thereafter be cremated.


Papa, thank you for the wonderful and irreplaceable memories that we shared together. I will carry all of these in my mind and heart for the rest of my life.

As what many people say, we don't worry about you anymore because you're finally together again with Mama in the after-life, if there's really such a place.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Monday, July 10, 2006

Who will take care of me when I'm old like Grandfather?

July 10, 2006

Today is the third day since Grandfather said goodbye for good. At the moment, we are waiting for the arrival of the rest of the participants for the daily prayer for him (third night). I enjoy events like this because family and close friends gather for a solemn cause. Along with it also comes the catching up about one another's lives.

No calls from the nursing homes to which I applied as a healthcare aide. This after lunch, I went to Health Sciences Centre and filled out an application form for Coding Technologist. With the looks of the requirements, I feel that I would be having a hard time getting considered for the job; but I applied anyway.

Tomorrow, I will start applying in other fields, to bridge the gap and give me less wasted time spent not working.

A few minutes ago, an auntie called to assign to me a task for Friday--Grandfather's viewing night at a funeral home--I'd be giving a short tribute speech. I already have a theme: "Who would take care of me when I'm old like Grandfather?"

I plan to recall happy moments with Grandfather, his best qualities as a grandfather and as a person. But most of all, the great lessons I've learned from him, from my having to stay with him during his last days.

This great lesson is

To not worry about who will take care of me when I'm old like Grandfather,
I should always be kind and considerate to my loved ones;
I should keep an open line of communication with my family (future children and grandchildren);
I should be generous with relatives and friends--not necessarily monetarily or materially, but generous with my kind words of hope and encouragement and of good and sincere wishes

Because when I'm old and already helpless, what would count most to others is how they remember me when I was still young and strong. And if they think of me as a kind person, they will surely be generous also of their affection and concern for me.

Papa, thanks for everything! I will never forget you and the countless stories we shared with each other.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

And the true adventure begins

July 8, 2006

I don't know how to start this blog entry. Well, I just have to say once again...for every blessing there's an accompanying downside. But on second thoughts, the downside is a relief after all.

Last Wednesday, I received a letter from Immigration, informing me that my application for permanent residence is now complete. All I need to do is wait for a call concerning the date of my appointment, when the final decision would be made. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. May this be the big blessing I've been waiting for. Meantime, I'm still looking for a job. On Monday, I'd be starting to consider jobs other than my target (health care), just to keep my hands full, especially now that my sense of purpose has been racked due to Grandfather's ultimate demise.

Yes, at 4:55 p.m. here where I am, Grandfather--Conrado L(anuza) Vera Sr.--finally passed away. I'm just glad that he expired peacefully, without much pain. The hospital called us at home at around 8:30 a.m., telling us that Grandfather was no longer responsive. We rushed to his side. Other relatives and closest family friends arrived as well, to be there by Grandfather's side. Waiting for the death of a loved one was a real feat. Fortunately, I got through it all. Grandfather's dying face will stay on my mind for quite a while, and this will always remind me of all the little joys and big hardships that I've so far experienced here in Canada.

And as what my angel reminded me a while ago: "Your true adventure in Canada is just about to begin."

O Canada, welcome the real eLf!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Another Quickie

July 4, 2006

Two weeks has passed since I began hunting for jobs at nursing homes and, still, no calls. Oh well, I'm realizing again that "heaven and hell" is indeed everywhere we are. We cannot expect so much. Today, my friend Jimmy will accompany me again to some places to fill out application forms or drop off resumes. As always, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my hopes reasonably high.

No Internet yet at the house; I hope the service provider arrives this week to install the connection. Having no Internet--my ultimate connection with my loved ones and friends from far away--is making me feel unwillingly detached from the world at large. But, fortunately, I could still function fairly well in my alternate world here.

Last Sunday, some relatives and friends invited me to join them to Portage la Prairie, a park and resort, sort of, about an hour-drive away from where we stay. It was a therapeutic breather for me. For an entire day, I was able to divert my mind from the exhaustion from having to stay at the hospital the whole day, to feed and look after Grandfather. We had picnic at the park, went strawberry picking (my first time! awesome). Filling up a small rectangular box cost C$6.50. Not bad. One could also eat strawberries while picking. Summertime, the temperature was hot; I just closed my eyes and I felt I was home in the Philippines. This is the reason you can never hear me complain about the heat these days--I feel I'm home, and above all, having experienced long Winter for already a couple years, I would never trade again the warmth of Summer for the cold pangs of Winter snow.

I would have not joined the gang swimming, but the heat and dirt of strawberry picking compelled me to. Usually, I feel embarrassed to remove my shirt every time I go swimming, but I noticed that my body is no longer thin as a stick like the way it used to be several years ago. So, swimming clad only in shorts no longer bothered me. Besides, I've come to an age when I'm already confident with who and what I really am. The pool water was warm, but the lash of the after-six-p.m. winds on my body made me shiver. Still, the weather was tolerable.

Last Friday, I slept over at the house of my friend Emong Payaso, and we tried to finish the song we have been recording for on-and-off for almost seven months now. The song, "Parang karnabal--ganyan ang buhay ng tao", is currently 95% done. After this, we will move on to record the two instrumentals--"Mahiwagang gitara ni Emong Payaso" and "Tuluy-tuloy ang palabas sa entablado"--which will finally complete my 3-song EP as haLf man half eLf, The Woes of Emong Payaso. Another six months? Oh well.

Yesterday, I had my first driving-lesson session. I never drove in the Philippines so that was my first time. Of course, I was nervous at first, but as the session progressed, I felt more comfortable and relaxed. I learned the basics--starting on the engine, stopping, turning, and parking. It was only day one and I was really enjoying it. The one-hour session was not enough. I'll be having the next lesson on Saturday. While on the steering wheel, I kept on thinking that driving a vehicle in North America is a necessity (not a luxury), so I must really learn how to drive. Besides, purchasing a vehicle here is affordable as long as one has a job--any job, even a minimum-wage job.

Yesterday was a holiday, a carry-over holiday--because July 1, Saturday, was Canada Day, so I got to spend an off from having to stay at the hospital with Grandfather. Today is Tuesday, another "workday" for me. Arriving early at the hospital, 10 a.m., I decided to dropped by Garden Shopping Centre to check my e-mails at the small Internet shop there. Browsing my blog site, I could help but write a new entry. I'm not used to having weeks passed by without any updates about myself. Even I need to read something about my current life. I enjoy "watching" myself struggle, as if I'm a separate entity observing the ups and downs of my human self. It's nice to see my life from outside the box. This keeps me conscious about what and what not to do. Life is really a trial and error, but, of course, the less error, the better. And one way of having the ability to commit less errors is to always have the time to stop or slow down to be able to assess your own progress in life.