Today I have decided to paint again after weeks of not painting. The idea of painting fills me with equal parts of excitement and anxiety. Excitement as I look forward to the time I spend painting and the end-product. Anxiety because it has been a while since I last painted and I did not want to fail after spending a considerable time on it.

I was undecided on the time of day or season my painting will be in so I used the gray gesso. Painting, unlike sketching, taught me a lot about patience. After applying the gesso, I have to stand back and wait for the gesso to dry up. In that time, I played music to get me into the mindless zone that I normally put myself in when painting or running. I did not over think how I will start the painting as I am confident that I have enough basic skills and imagination to have a good start.


The sky was taking shape and I was loving the shapes of the clouds however I was unsure on the highlight of colours that I placed on the clouds. The trees took shape with little effort. I decided to put colours on the trees and just like that the painting depicted an autumn scene. I decided to paint a swan on the river as I was observing the swans yesterday. The first swan turned out acceptable so I decided to paint another one that was flapping its wings. This swan also turned out to be good as well. These aspects of the paintings actually make a good picture already but I had reserved space for the foreground objects. I painted the bank of the river on the foreground. I was already happy with the picture but it was pretty obvious that there is something missing on the foreground. I need to have subjects on the foreground to become the focus of the whole painting. This time, I know I was over thinking it so I had to stand back and stop. I decided to eat a slice of roll whilst staring at the painting.


Part of me was saying to just leave it alone as it is already a good painting. Why risk ruining something that is already good? Swans! I actually painted beautiful swans so why risk ruining it? However, a big part of me knows that the painting is unfinished and that whilst the painting was already good, there was no real focus. It needed something to focus the attention of the viewer and complete the painting.It can be better.

So after I have eaten the roll and danced off the rest of my doubts, I sat down to finish my painting. I was uncertain on how to paint the people because I have not painted seated people before. (drawn – yes! but not painted as I only started painting this year). I painted the people as my gut dictated. I added more bushes and flowers on the foreground. I did not stop until my mind says, ‘It is done.’ After I placed the palette knife down, I stood back to look at the whole picture. In no way were the elements in the foreground perfect but they completed the picture in my eyes.


As I am sipping my hot chocolate and admiring my new painting, I contemplated that my indecision earlier on is like some instances in my life when I am like a deer caught in the headlights; stuck on the spot. Most aspects of my life, I know my mind or opinion about things. It is very rare that I cannot make my mind to take the next steps. I always make decisions based on evidence, science and logic. If those three do not provide enough basis for a decision then I go by what my gut says which has not failed me (yet). But there are instances where I am not keen on changing the status quo, when the current situation is already good… I do not want to rock the boat especially if the risks are high and the outcome is largely unknown. For all my bravado, I am definitely a coward at times in certain situations and will only man up when backed to a corner. The only good thing is that I am self-aware even if I chose to ignore a situation so eventually I will make a decision. I try not to have unfinished paintings in my life. It may look good at a glance and others may think that it is already good but I would know that there is something is missing.

That is enough introspection on a cold rainy Monday afternoon when I can just enjoy my cup of hot chocolate and my new painting.



The Last Doll on The Shelf

I am a special doll, especially imported from the Far East. I got delicate porcelain hand-painted face and beautifully crafted hands. My silky black hair rival that of the real women. To be honest, I do think my hair might be prettier actually. My beautiful silk dress has the colour of sunset in all its glorious hues. The little umbrella I am carrying is of the same material with fine lace trimmings. The owner of the store where I am to be displayed handled me with care, all the while smiling. ‘Let’s put her up on the top shelf,’ he told his wife,’ she’s special we don’t want little children to be touching her. She’ll fetch a good price’.

So I was placed on my place of honour at the top shelf. From there it seems I can see forever. It seems that all I survey is mine as it should be as I am a special doll. The highest priced to be exact. I look down to the next level of shelf, I saw that there were other porcelain dolls but they were made locally hence not as expensive as I am. They waved to me but I only nodded my head towards them. Surely, they know their superior when they see one and not expect me to return their enthusiasm. Hmmm…Another tier down are those plastic dolls awkwardly dressed in contemporary clothes made obviously of cheap materials. Hmph…I thought that it’s ok for them to be within reach of the little children with dirty grubby hands. No way Jose! Only the privileged can handle me, after all I am a special doll, the highest priced in fact.

The doll store I am in does have a lot of customers. Almost all of them would stare in awe at me. I am, after all, on the top shelf with the spotlight directed at me. Several little girls pointed at me; some too shabby for my taste that it sends shivers down my spine, but their mothers would look at my price and tell the little girls to choose instead from the second tier. The plastic dolls got sold fast, well, that is to be expected. They were cheap anyway and suitable for common people. Surely, somebody with superb taste will walk into this store, take one look at me and decide that she can’t leave the store without buying me. That will happen, I’m sure… after all I am a special doll, the highest priced in fact.

One day a group of wealthy looking girls walked into the store. As expected they stared at me so I stood in the glory of my spotlight. Well, I am getting tired of standing here… they will do, I thought. They look like they can provide me a decent doll house even if it’s not up to my standards. But they look at the tier below me and saw the locally made porcelain dolls. They had a discussion among themselves and I heard tidbits like ‘ she’s really pretty but she’s too expensive,’ ‘she will look pretty awkward in my old doll house’…’can buy other things…’ In the end they bought the dolls on the second tier. The little girls were smiling happily with their new purchases. Somehow I felt a stab of pain in my heart, almost to the point of lowering the pretty umbrella I am proudly holding up. I watch the girls walk out of the store with their dolls into the sunshine. I wonder what it feels like to be in that sunshine and be held lovingly by an owner. But I shook off the unreasonable feeling, after all, somebody will purchase me. I have to remind myself that I am a special doll, the highest priced in fact. I turned my face slightly to the side so I won’t be staring directly at the beckoning sunlight.

There was such fuss around the store one day. The owners dust around and brought in more dolls. The bustle of activities made me dizzy. Then the owners did something strange, they were sticking red labels on the dolls. I looked closely and read what it says ‘sale’. Surely not! They will not dare stick a red label on me! Me! I am a special doll, surely not…The owner’s wife came near me with that dreadful sticker then turned to her husband, ‘Should she be on sale as well?’ she asked him. The owner looked at me wistfully then smiled,’ Nah! Some collector will walk into this store and pay a good price for her.’ So I was spared from the indignation of being red tagged. I am a special doll… I don’t deserve such callous treatment.

The day of the sale came and plenty of people came to buy dolls. Most of them look at me but few dared touch me for my price tag was glaringly visible. The others were being sold almost by the minute and some were even played by the little girls in the store. Laughter can be heard in the store yet I am not part of it. I am in it yet not really in it. Then a young lady walked into the store. The owners seem to recognise her as they were asking about her ‘collection’. I straightened my back more and held my umbrella higher. This must be the moment I have been waiting for. Somebody, worthy of me, has walked into the store, looking for something special. As expected she looked my way and asked to inspect me closely. I felt excitement and joy in my heart. This is it, surely. Her eyes were sparkling as she turned me this way and that, inspecting my delicate features then she asked ‘ Does she come in blue?’. I cannot describe fully what I feel at that moment. Blue?! I am not in blue, that’s a common enough colour. I am in rare shades of the sunset, surely she can appreciate that. The owner replied ‘ No, she’s one of a kind,’ and the young lady replied softly ‘ Oh, I was hoping to get a doll in a beautiful blue dress.’ at the same time she handed me back to the owner who put me back on the top shelf.

At that moment I wanted to disappear from sight. Blue, she wanted blue…that’s such a common colour while I am in the glorious hues of sunset but…she wanted blue. The rest of the sale day went in a blur. I couldn’t really care much… I wasn’t in blue. The owner and his wife were closing up, happy at the success of their sale. The wife moved me slightly to the centre and said ‘It’s a pity that the collector did not buy her. Do you think we should lower her price?’ The owner looked closely at me then shakes his head, ‘It’s a pity to lower her price as she’s worth that price. It will be a loss for us. Nah! Leave it as it is. She’ll be a good display doll, something to pull people in. Some dolls were not meant to be owned by an individual. If they cannot afford her price then they can look at the other dolls. It will be a win- win situation.’ I wanted to shout at my owner to lower my price, surely a few pounds knocked off my price is worth a moment in that sunshine and being held by someone who adores me not from a distance.

The owner and his wife slowly made their way to the door then put off the lights yet the spotlight on me remains. With a heavy heart I looked longingly at the sunshine through the window. I am a special doll, the highest priced in fact but I am also the last doll on the shelf.

Note by the author: the idiom ‘ last on the shelf’ is something that I only learned and heard used in UK a few years ago. Guess to whom that statement was referred to? Welcome to my world. the real Bridget Jones—in the flesh

written on 23 June 2006 (so glad that I managed to save this one)


Unbidden, you came to me

Out of the blue you came to be

A beautiful world you’ve shown to me

Through twist and turns you’ve guided me

My heart and trust I have given to thee

Pain and tears were never to be

Let me believe, you plus me equals ‘we’

I thought that it is no longer ‘just me’

Without a word, you drifted from me

What wrong I have done I couldn’t see

My love, I understood, meant nothing to thee

So, unbidden, the tears came to me


Ode to the Sambag Tree

Alas, Sambag tree

Your tale of woe has reached me

You have been fell, not by foul means but by our unwilling will

A merciful cut it is said to be but cruel still

Oh Sambag tree, you’ll be forever missed

Never again shall your shade be shelter from the sun

Never again will your falling leaves be caught in childish fun

Never again will be children looking forward to your sweet- sour fruit

Never again will the maya birds’ nests on your branches hung

Oh Sambag tree, you’ll be sorely missed

Celebrate though the long years you’ve lived

Older than any other in the family

War, martial law and prosperity you’ve seen

A silent witness to all that has been

A famous landmark when our home is sought

Always we say, ‘the house with the big sambag tree’

Many times in the past we have tried to cut you

Shorten your branches we have done, do more we cannot bear

The tempest have broken a branch or so

But stood still you bore it all your years

But nature had been unkind in your old age

A colony of pest has eaten you from within

Like cancer it must have been for you

Dying slowly yet nothing you can do

An axe swung, an electric saw roared

Lo, fell the great sambag tree

A big block of you a table we’ll make

All that remains of the silent member of the family

Go then dear Sambag tree

To tree heaven there must be

Where tempest dare not shake your branches

Where pest will never reside within

You have done your job

Peace and rest you are to have

Though woe we must bear without thee

O Sambag tree, we bid thee farewell

circa: 2007 (also not sure)



Coursing through my whole being

Eating away at my soul

Freezing off my heart


Sleep escaping me

Forgetting everything including shame

No longer recognise this person


No longer know how to smile

Happiness is but an illusion

Yet I still want to be poisoned for a while


Everybody can clearly see

This is no longer me

A shell, a dying ember of what was


Running through my veins

Burning , shearing my person

Yet still craving for this poison


An antidote I would need

Fight it off I must do

Every drop makes me heal and forget


Hating and loving at the same time

Equal measure, it just can’t be

Hating, loving , craving

For I am poisoned

circa 2006 (not sure)

The (mis)adventures of the Vertically Challenged

Being vertically challenged is one thing people would immediately notice about me when they see me especially on the western hemisphere of Earth. I have heard, taken gracefully, and laughed at all the punchlines regarding my height over the years. But I like to think that my size do not  and should not define nor limit me.

If I was in the Philippines, I would not be the shortest person in a room. I was not always at the front of the line when I was still in school. There were actually others in front of me. But to be honest, I was near enough to the front.

It is called ‘vertically challenged’ for a reason and we, of the hobbit stature, do have a lot of challenges. One of the things that was not fun for me was using the medication cupboards in the bays. These were placed with the British nurses in mind so the top two shelves are difficult to reach. The table underneath the cupboard makes it extra difficult to come nearer to the cupboard and this also adds at least 6 more inches of reach that I have to do. If I stand on tiptoes I would just about reach the medication boxes on the second top shelf. I often use a foot stool or a stepladder when I did my medication round. When I cannot find the step ladder or foot stool then I balance myself on one of stools in the ward which often scare those who see me. I often get, ‘Be careful. You shouldn’t be doing that.That is dangerous’ But thankfully I am nimble enough on my feet that balancing is not a problem. The problem is when even the stool is not available and I needed to get Lactulose from the top shelf. Years ago I used to climb effortlessly onto the desk under the cupboard but that is not always feasible especially if I am wearing a dress- uniform. Repetitive reaching and stretching actually cause pain on my right shoulder. Thank goodness for us changing over to medication trolleys! Though, that is a challenge too as my head does not go above the monitor. That is easily remedied by pulling instead of pushing the trolley when moving from one place to the next. Getting equipment or things from the top shelf in the clean utility is also a challenge. Whose bright idea is it to put the sterile gloves on the top shelf?! Usually, I just get on top of a chair and get what I need or climb up the shelf itself. The latter scares me because I always envision that the shelves would topple over. How was I going to explain that to the people who will respond to the loud crash? So, if a chair is not available then I would ask one of my staff or a tall doctor if I can borrow their height and if they could kindly reach something for me. Another disadvantage is that I almost always need to have my dresses hemmed and taken in for better fit. I sometimes have to wonder if I will actually meet the height requirement for some rides in theme parks. Thankfully that thrill-seeking part of me has now gone to the background. I almost always wear heeled shoes to augment my height when going out. My poor feet had to endure the pain of walking in heels almost all the time.

But being short is not all negative. My size comes handy during lifting in cheer-leading performance or dance. I would not give my partner or team mates back pain for lifting me. I can go in front of everybody else when watching a street parade (if I am even bothered to watch one) as I do not block anybody’s view. I almost always manage to buy things during sale time as smaller sizes do get left behind. I will always be mistaken to be younger than I actually am. A bus driver once mistaken me for a child and at the movie house I was almost charged for a child’s ticket but on both instances I insisted on paying the adult fee. I can squeeze in tiny spaces and sleep comfortably on a sofa as I really do not need to curl up.

The jokes are aplenty. ‘How’s the weather down there?’ is a common one. The answer to that one? ‘Well, it would greatly improve if everybody takes a shower every day.’ (Hey, I can roll with the punches but I sure can throw one your way too.) One time at class (wherein we were arranged in alphabetical order so I was seated next to my cousin…my own cousin) I was called on to answer a question so I stood up and my cousin said jokingly to me, ‘Ma’am Hinoguin said stand up,’ I was already standing up at that time. Gee thanks, Ben! Sometimes, I make the joke about my height. One of the matrons would ask me regarding my staffing numbers, ‘Are you short today?’ and my witty answer would be, ‘ well, personally, I will always be short but the ward has enough staff.’ I always said this with a smile but the poor matron had since then stopped asking me this question.

One of my goddaughters once expressed being worried about being bullied in school and I assured her that I was never bullied at school and I was smaller than her. Her dad interjected that the reason that I was never bullied because I was the bully. Funny but not true. Though, I was one of those who will put the bullies in their place if I catch them bullying my friends, either physically or academically. Thankfully I only had to take on a bully physically twice in my lifetime. (of course I won…I am feisty and scrappy plus I think I caught the boys by surprise, hahaha)

Height is only one aspect of me and I have never let it limit my potentials. People often think that I have shrunk when standing next to me as they thought I was taller than I really am. It is more about attitude than actual size. If you allow yourself to think yourself as a small person who can be pushed around then you will be pushed around even if in reality you are a six footer.

Someone once described me as, ‘little sister with big person’s attitude.’ ( And No, it is not about being a bully.) It is about refusing to be pushed around, taking a stand, and actually pushing back as warranted.

Otherwise, let us all follow the sage advice of my then 5 year old godson, ‘Ninang, you need to eat more vegetables so you will grow.’ 😉

Ode to My Love

I love you when the sun rises and sets
I love you through wind, rain and sunshine
I love you over mountains and valleys
I love you through time and distance
I love you with every good morning and good night
I love you with every beat, thought, and sigh
I love you in my waking and sleeping hours
I love you for no reason and every reason
I love you yesterday, today and tomorrow
I love you to the end and forever
I love you as my truth and my dream
I love you simply because I love you

Piece by Piece

lady in red

I thought I could do it

Hold on tight and ride the tide

Patiently I have waited

For you to let me inside

But my poor frail heart can’t take it

It has been broken too many times

How long should I wait

For me to be in you life

Loving you but from afar

Not knowing if you love me too

So piece by piece

I’m letting you go

Tear by tear

My pain will be washed away

Second by second

I’ll let the tears drop

Hour by hour

I’ll get over you

Day by day

I’ll survive without you

Little by little

I’ll remove you from my heart

Step by step

I’ll walk away from you

For piece by piece

I’m letting you go

circa 2006 (I think)

There is No Forever

I have read the caption on a meme some days ago. However, the whole thing actually says, ‘ They lied to us. There is no forever. There is only the period between hello and goodbye.’

It resonates the truth actually. No one lives forever. Who wants to live forever,anyway? Nobody has reported from beyond the grave whether we keep our consciousness when our mortal bodies die. Would we still know each other on the other side? That is why when Papa died, ‘Tears in Heaven’ seems so appropriate.

I know I am becoming nostalgic, morbid, and depressing again. It is not that I want to debunk all the promises of forever people give to each other. The point is to make the here and now count. Why wait for a special occasion to tell your mum, your dad, your sibling, or your beloved that you love them? Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Make sure that they know that you care.

What started all this? The mother of a very good friend died today and she was not able to say goodbye to her. This made me realised how important the last words spoken are because these will be what we will remember in the end. So I sent a message to my mother and told her that I love her.

There is no forever but there is the here and now so make sure it counts. Make sure you make your love known. You do not want to be talking to an empty chair in the end.

Just shout it out loud and clear, ‘I love you’. 🙂