Our First DMD Awareness Day

As America observes Labor Day some people all over the world celebrate Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) Awareness Day and I, my wife, and Marcus were among those who participated in our own simple way. Kudos to wifey, she had a perfect plan on how we should go about it which is by celebrating the day together with people whom Marcus stay with five days a week.  So today, we surprised his classmates during their lunch break.

Wifey and I went to the school with our car and bag packed. We stopped by to meet up with the one who baked the cupcakes, dropped by Greenwich for the pizza, and  we filled our backseat with red and white helium balloons from a small party needs store. In the trunk were our presentation materials—a YouTube video saved on a laptop and a wheelchair.

Questions were all over when we entered the classroom as everyone seems to wonder when they saw me pushing the wheelchair in—the sight of it entering the school gate made waiting parents’, yayas’, and guardians’ heads turn as well. But with most of his classmates already familiar with how Marcus behaves, I soon heard ahhs and ohs as a sign of their realization of  whom the attractive red and blue wheelchair belongs to. Curiosity heightened when I made a short introduction of why we are there. Then I played BrainPOP’s animation about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Everyone was all ears.

The attentive audience.

Reactions differ as the 4-minute video played. Some smiled—after recognizing the similarities of the animated character’s traits with that of Marcus—and some tried to absorb what they have just seen. Marcus’ adviser and the school’s principal were also present and even if they are the only two adults who now begin to understand more about Marcus’ condition made our efforts to spread the word about DMD all worth it.

We capped the celebration by letting the grade one class release the red and white balloons. Everyone enjoyed the celebration so we declare our first DMD awareness day as one mission accomplished.

Saying goodbye to the red and white balloons.

***

My wife and I also took the opportunity to give everyone a heads up that sooner or later Marcus will be leaving their school and most of them cannot believe it. Other kids who are also fond of Marcus were surprised about the news. Sigh.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Marcus’ 2nd time to shower in the rain.)

What writing exercises reveal

It is perfectly normal I guess for kids to show and express their influences in school. For them to see that their heroes or people or things they admire are with them while in class could lessen their anxiety or better yet inspire them to focus on their activities while seated in front their teacher. It must be the very same reason they want bags and matching pencil cases that have the images of their favorite superhero or even favorite doll. “I will be the next Ant-Man.” “I will grow as lovely as a Bratz.” We’ve been school kids before so we should understand.

Drawings would also reveal what is on their minds, what they imagine all the time. And even words they write could show what or who their influences are. Case in point is what we discovered just recently from Marcus’ Mastering Handwriting book.

The current favorite–Batman.

Ok, that’s fine. We know Batman, kids love Batman. So B for Batman is a no-brainer. Back in the days he would have written Ben 10, but he got bored of it.

How about H? Name a character whose name starts with a letter H? Can’t recall one? Hawkeye? Hellboy? Hulk? Nope. Harry Potter? Eww. Oopps, pardon my manners.

Neither Hawkeye nor Hellboy, not even Hulk made it. Hitman did.

Yes, Hitman made it on Marcus’ H list. This is despite the fact that I have already kept his Hitman Xbox CD and he never saw any of it after the first 10 minutes of that game after I learned that the Hitman is fond of pianos except that he is more interested in the use of its one wire–one wire is good enough to play his death tune. But Marcus soon heard about this character again from the trailer of the movie Hitman: Agent 47 and its cinema posters in the mall didn’t help us in hiding the character’s existence. So that writing exercise must be a subtle request to allow him to watch the movie and had it been PG13 I would have given in. However, with its R13 movie rating means that it is a lot more than just piano wires and its unconventional use. So yes, you could take a breather now, we are responsible parents after all. And for that writing entry, we have asked him to remove it. The word ‘hit’ would be good enough for now.

***

Again, no Hitman. We watched Pixels. It is his first discounted movie.

***

Mood: 4/10 Honks! (There’s a queue on the treadmill, all weights today.)

Back to School 2015

Today Marcus goes back to school. Back to where he used to be instead of the one in Batangas. This time it was us who are more anxious about him going back to school after learning about his condition this year.

The thought of him mingling with active school kids gives me and my wife that uneasy feeling. We fear that he might fall while playing or even just going in front of the class. We fear that he might get depressed if he sees other kids running around without effort while he just sit and watch them. We thought that he will have new sets of classmates as we heard that none from his previous class enrolled.

Well I was wrong. I accompanied him to school this morning and I have never been more happy to see old faces and to see them excited to see Marcus. So excited that they all transferred seats to be with him.

It is also nice to discover that the school was able to complete the construction of the new rooms. Marcus now goes to an entirely different room as a grade one pupil. So far this organization have been doing a great job. I think I could now say that this is a good start to a new school year.

New classroom, old happy faces.

 

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Can’t wait to see how this day will end.)

(Street) Smart?

This week is Marcus’ 3rd week of summer class and yesterday after he exits the classroom I was able to have a short talk with his teacher to check for progress.

Soon I learned that while he gets marked with stars on the back of his hand for doing a good job almost often since day 3 he seems to be fooling around–which I suspect happens when he is bored. His teacher said, “I know that he knows the answer but sometimes he would deliberately give the wrong one.”

Upon arriving home I had him reviewed using the Word Family House game with a very clear condition: for every wrong answer he gives I delete one of his apps from our Telpad tablet. The frustrating session began. He says ‘cup’ instead of ‘mug’, he says ‘punch’ instead of ‘hit’. The clues I’m giving weren’t just working. He lost three apps by lunch time.

Today at school before class I reminded him that there will be another round of review, just like yesterday, same rules apply. Excitedly, he told me, “Daddy, I have given to mommy some of my games. I have placed Talking Tom and Minecraft in her apps folder.” Those were his favorite games, now it his mom’s which I can’t technically delete this time. I’ll give to him. Street smart, isn’t he?

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Jack Bauer in 10 minutes.)

Unexpected Bully

This Monday we heard a very surprising news, one so unlikely, when we picked Marcus from school. I got off from the car and approached two anxious faces–the assistant teacher and school director–looking after our kid as he does his usual end of class playtime. And my gut feel proved itself right when the school director walked with me and Marcus back to our parked car.

“Sir, I will tell you something about Marcus…he’s been acting up in class. This morning he wrote on his classmate’s school uniform. Their adviser also said that every now and then she has observed aggression since the start of school year a month ago.” Boom. The few meters to our idling car felt like a hundred. The director’s report made me walk a lot slower, it dragged me more than the weight of Marcus whom I was cuddling then. I feinted a smile to appreciate the feedback.

“What’s the news? What were you discussing with Sir Ric?” asked my wife who was waiting inside the car. “How’s school, Marcus?” she added a cliché question as Marcus settles down at the backseat. The next thing my wife heard struck her just as it did to me. To display some bullying is the least of the things we expect to hear about our son. The news was just unbelievable. There were some serious exchange on our drive back home.

Yesterday, I already talked to our son’s adviser and likewise had a chat with the director at the dreaded principal’s office. I have told them that Marcus has been made aware of what he did and that I am open to receive updates regarding his behavior in the next days. “Let’s talk again next time, but hopefully not about Marcus,” I said as I stood up to leave. The director agreed, “Yes, sir. Hope it will be about our badminton game.”

***

For the very first time, Marcus helped out in washing the dishes after lunch. He also wiped the table top. I wonder what’s up this time–must be his way of entertaining himself as it’s nine days since I had our cable TV subscription discontinued.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (He just played the Christmas CD.)

School Year is Around the Corner for Our Ben 10

Summer is coming to a close for Marcus. Spending almost two months of vacation wherein he has continuously shown proficiency in his computer skills—kudos to the iPad from the Lawsons—and improving in terms of physical activities—courtesy of the time he spent with his cousins, we will be enrolling him today for Kindergarten level education.

Although he answered half-heartedly to our question if he is ready to go to school again, I feel that this year he will be more eager to discover new things. Last school year, the lessons from school along with what he learns at home have helped him to start (and shutdown) the PC; type the boot up password; log in on his own account; search key words (using cheat sheets just so he can spell the words); and recognize the common computer terms such as: download, loading, next, back, close window and maximize window. Remarkably, my credit card remains safe from Apple store charges as he can distinguish free and paid apps.

Not to be forgotten as well is his interest in new cartoon shows on cable TV. From last summer’s Phineas and Ferb, he has moved on to programs such as Ninjago, and the Ben 10 series. He is so into these cartoons that he can memorize a majority of the characters which is something that never fails to surprise me and my wife and it make us wish that the school has enumeration quizzes for the names of the heroes and villains of these TV shows.  We know he’ll ace it even if he pronounces both Lord and Lloyd Garmadon just the same.

This school year, however, he will be into a different time slot. Waking up early is therefore the first challenge I anticipate and I now also wonder if there is an iPad app that can help us with this.

***

Yesterday, my favorite healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez mentioned during his TV mass about pre-school education in Japan. According to him, the Japanese curriculum does not include regular exams for the pupils during first three years of their schooling with the rationale that it promotes unhealthy competition if imbibed at an early age.  But whether this information (about Japanese education) is factual or not, I think that every parent should take note of it.  I agree with Fr. Suarez when he said that more and more parents nowadays have been coaxing their children to win in contests that at some point it sends a wrong signal and value to the young minds—one that divides rather than unites especially without the appropriate guidance. So this school, I told my wife that we give Marcus some slack and besides it is what we did during the later part of his nursery education and guess what, he ended up the as the most improved pupil of his class.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Stuffed toy and green ball just came out of the bedroom. He’s awake.)

Thank God, School’s Over

(Counterclockwise from top left.) Marcus and his awards; with mommy; cooling off at Pepper Lunch; Four Arms?

Classes are finally over as today starts Marcus’ official summer vacation. Yesterday we attended his school’s moving up ceremony wherein he brought home a couple of special awards for being the most neat and clean as well as the most improved nursery student.

So in the next two months new routines await of us. Besides his well-deserved break from books and stressful study sessions, it’s goodbye sleep deprivation for me due to driving and waiting for him at school–I skipped this for only a couple of days due to being sick; and it’s a big relief for wifey from worries if school uniforms have been pressed (or not) and if what food to prepare next for lunch, these among other things she need to take care of since class started in June last year.

Congrats Marcus! Congrats wifey, we made it. God is good.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Can’t wait for our first summer outing.)

How to Behave Online During a Disaster

Bombarded by a neighbor’s videoke session and a boring new Pinoy Big Brother season, I just realized that I was finally finishing off the last of the chocolate balls I’ve brought along with me from last Thursday’s group session at the Kho’s residence. Now, I’m back to having the regular Hany chocnut for dessert.

 I’m also back to my regular Twitter and Facebook post personality  because last week, due to the seriousness of what happened after typhoon Ondoy’s widespread destruction, I made the following commitment on how to behave online during a disaster.

Do something, anything, helpful for the typhoon victims

Other than sorting and donating some of our used clothing—including our baby’s—and some other stuffs, I was among those who made good use of Twitter to disseminate critical information coming from agencies such as the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), government officials and media personalities who are also on Twitter. I am fascinated by the fact that this microblog, meant initially for socialization, getting updated with what celebrities as well as ordinary folks are currently doing, can become a very helpful communication tool during a disaster such as typhoon Ondoy. It’s just a pity though, that while others are trying their best to extend help however they can, some didn’t spare the opportunity to send spam by latching into critical hashtags.

Stop re-tweeting allegations against anyone

The problem with technology nowadays is that the rate of how information is exchanged back and forth is so quick that it is easy to spread something like a gossip or false accusations within seconds. Take for example, the case of a particular Jacque Bermejo, who in the midst of the overflowing sympathy for those affected by typhoon Ondoy, allegedly posted a demeaning remark on her Facebook status. In a matter of hours, hundreds pounced in (unfortunately, I was among them) to give her their piece of mind—rough ones, mostly. A couple of days later, ANC Dubai interviewed Jacque Bermejo and according to her, it was a hacked account which she has already filed a complaint with the proper authorities abroad (and I’m assuming that includes Facebook admins).

Another victim of this split-second social network mobbing is the President’s son, Mikey Arroyo, whose hazy picture appeared posted in Facebook and Twitter showing him in a liquor section (according to report was in Rustan’s department store) at the height of typhoon Ondoy. If it was him or if it was taken while everyone’s busy helping out those impacted, I’ll let it pass, I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Lastly, even Gibo Teodoro, the Secretary of Department of National Defense and a 2010 presidential aspirant wasn’t spared.  Some tweeps became furious when they discovered that Gibo isn’t the one behind his own Twitter account (@giboteodoro) but his staffs. Whether that’s the truth or not, I really don’t care.  As long as he dictates those tweets and each are meant to communicate to as much individual as possible, that to me is still public service. (Feel my bias here?)

Quit sending inappropriate humor

I’m one who would readily type and send anything humorous as soon as it pops in my mind. Although I have limits to what I send (for one, I haven’t sent sexually explicit jokes), I realized that since I don’t personally know well all of my Facebook or Twitter contacts, whatever I’d send especially during a crisis might be misconstrued as insensitive or offending, thus until yesterday I refrained from doing such. In fact, I even skipped sending shoutouts of the ingredients I needed for my virtual Restaurant City game. Just imagine how one would feel when he opens his Facebook to check on relatives and all of a sudden he sees one of his best friends posting jokes or playing Mafia Wars or Resto City? Go figure.

***

I’m now looking at, finally, the much awaited draft of my Mandyn group’s presentation for Thursday. That means classes will resume this week starting tomorrow. It also means that life will be back to normal. Well, at least for those who weren’t affected by typhoon Ondoy or typhoon Pepeng. Sadly, while we all move on as if nothing happened, some even at this time haven’t even eaten regularly yet while others still try to accept that they’ve lost everything they used to have.

So wouldn’t it be nice if we all still spare a thought, pray,  and share something more for the typhoon victims? I’ll try my best.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Bukas na!)

Are you the Man of Steal?

(Blog originally intended for my alma mater’s blog site.)

I was thinking of a better title for this blog and I remember a high school classmate whom we tagged as “Man of Steal.” Not that he’s a professional thief, but it’s just that he had this annoying habit of not returning things he borrowed or worse, keeping small petty stuff that our classmates possessed and valued—such as David Pomeranz cassette tapes (yes tapes!), books, etc.

I’m quite sure we’ve had our share of petty thievery way, way back in the past. We’ve sneaked into our nanay‘s wallet to fund our Masskara escapades. We’ve kept extra resistors from the lab to support our home-made audio amplifiers and boosters. We’ve raided the stock room to pick extra welding rods for our bike’s frame. And we’ve, intentionally or unintentionally, grabbed one lumpia or burger from Claire without shedding a single centavo.

Those who are guilty, please raise your hands. Wait, I can’t type one-handed.

Mr. Genito’s reminder prior to our last OJT still stays fresh in my mind, ”INDI pagkuhaon maski bato sa inyo ulobrahan (DO NOT take even a single rock from within your company).” I will always remember that briefing every time I’d see gravel in the parking lot and would ask myself, ”Maski ini? (Even this?)”, ”Oo, maski ina! (Yes, even that!)”, my good side will respond immediately.

As the technology around us gets more advanced than it was before—and becomes affordable to almost everyone—another form of stealing gets so rampant and so common that one wouldn’t know that he has actually participated in it. Even those with the best of intentions, regardless of social status, religion, or profession are victims. Even friends.

This is film piracy. Once again I’m guilty as charged. But that was more than eight years ago. I remember the last bootleg copy I bought was Tom Hank’s Cast Away which I got from one of the malls in Alabang. That day, I also grabbed some beer, pulutan, and then went home so eager to watch it with my wife. Sadly, I almost crushed our VCD player in disgust when in the middle of the movie it started pixelating and ruined our night altogether. And that was it, I had enough.

I guess it was one of my wake-up calls to end the illicit practice once and for all. And as if trying to justify my life-changing decision, I read the papers, watched the news and attended company-supported training sessions related to this. It was then when I became more aware of things such as Intellectual Property and Copyright laws.

Of course, everyone knew how costly (some may find it even ridiculous and stupid) it is to stop buying pirated products nowadays. It’s the reason my Core 2 Duo still has the genuine Windows ‘98 OS in it and until now the dual core processor is concentrating its power on the free solitaire game—dasig gid eh (very quick), if you will ask.

Since then, my wife and I also started saving to buy the CDs and DVDs that we like. If the budget isn’t available we’d content ourselves to listening to our favorite music over the radio and watching movies on the cable channels or in the cinemas.

Although feeling good about doing the right thing, I’ve kept mum about it. Pushing this anti-piracy advocacy in front of most people I know would either get me booted out of my circle of friends or get raised eyebrows at the very least. (I even discovered that one high position expat got a whole shelf of “Quiapo” DVDs in his home. It’s disappointing and frustrating.)

Until now I still wonder if there will come a time when the government and other concerned organization will eradicate or significantly lessen this illegal trade that’s been killing almost the whole industry—even food, toys, books, textiles and other consumer products in the market are affected. Wishful thinking? If and when that time comes, I’ll be one proud man.

And by the way, if after reading this one might wonder if I’m the OMB chairman, Edu Manzano, I wish but I’m definitely not. I’m just one concerned individual hoping to influence at least one. Yes, at least one who might influence another.

So are you the Man of Steal or not?

Reunions and Alcohol in Bacolod

“In vino veritas” – anonymous

Last time, I wrote about the degrading condition of Bacolod city with regards to some taxi drivers’ misdemeanor, dirty streets, traffic congestion and concrete roads that seem to get back to the ages where ruts are a norm. All these still seem true in every place I have been lately.

But I realized that there are reasons I still like to come here as often as time and money permit.  I keep on coming back for the people I have known for years—my parents and family, for my classmates, for friends, and for whoever are still here and haven’t left Bacolod to work or to stay abroad for good.

From the time we arrived from Manila and within just one week, the calls for reunion—or invitation to drink—poured in through SMS.

The first one was with my IP bros who were my classmates and friends in college. I was one of the founding members of this informal group. IP stands for Iota Pi or International Playboy. I was clueless though where we got this name. Or just like any rock bands today, it was taken on the spur of the moment from one of our misadventures courtesy of Red Horse or San Miguel beer, Toska Vodka, Ginebra Gin or a mixture of all of these.

Unlike our college years, this time we drank in moderation (ahem). We were just happy enough to spend some time reminiscing and checking what everyone’s been doing lately. Surprisingly, we also ended our session early. If this was more than 10 years ago, it would have been over not until the wee hours of the morning and we would be going home reeking of alcohol and some other smell that we get in along the way.

The second reunion was with batch ‘90 SJHS. I never expected that this year I’ll be attending a general homecoming instead of the usual annual batch reunion. With Melvin and his wife, we arrived at St. Joseph’s High School – La Salle by 2 p.m. despite the heavy downpour (it’s been raining for days since we arrived). From the moment we entered the gate, the familiar faces brought back memories and stirred some confusion. I recognized some names but forgot the faces and vice versa—knew the faces but forgot the names.

Registration was a breeze. Immediately after, we wasted no time and went to tour the school’s ground. Most of the buildings are still there while some of our 2nd and 4th year classrooms have been changed to a school chapel. What was once the pavilion and the canteen are now nowhere to be found as both have been merged into a bigger activity center called the Oscar Hilado Civic Center. Part of the football field has been consumed by this new building, too.

At the rear part of the campus, our Library, practical arts room (San Lorenzo Ruiz Building), and home economics buildings still stand. Some new structures already annexed the area beside the periphery fence.

Right behind the civic center is the new canteen where just for this event beers are sold. At last, after 20 years, this is my first time to drink booze legally inside the SJHS campus—we once smuggled alcohol during a recollection event. Ti abi.

Our batch’s attendance reached almost 20 when dinner was served. Our allocated table was filled with smiling faces, people exchanging news and pleasantries. The free dinner was also good. It was also worth noting that most of our teachers are still with SJHS. Some dropped by for this homecoming.

There’s Mr. Leon Sales whom I won’t forget for it is through him that I learned to touch-type fast enough to surprise most people. There’s Mr. Baldomero who was our 1st year moderator and who introduced us the yoyo called “El Diablo.” Ms. Logrunio, Ms. Lupo, Mr. Lariza and our “psychic” Filipino teacher, Mr. Mahigne were also present. Then there’s Mr. Dante Amaguin who arrived late but nonetheless still got our attention with his magic tricks. He was our 4th year class adviser.

I am so glad to be part of these series of reunions. It is always nice to see friends in good health, successful in their respective careers or just plainly contented to be still in our hometown and yet survive (I actually find them lucky and I even envy them).  Time always flies. So before I know it, I will be here again back for another reunion in Bacolod.