BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Monday, November 19, 2007

(Published last November 18 for the Working Moms segment of the Philippine Star)

It's amazing how a mother's womb stretches to make room for another human being. Everyday for nine months, I witnessed how my womb grew bigger and bigger until it was time for my child to be born.

From a tiny speck, she grew to become the baby girl that she would be. And every single day, during that nine-month journey, I thought about nothing but her. I ate, drank and moved with her in my mind. I slept early, took lots of rest and skipped many night gatherings to protect the life growing inside me.

Much like the womb, my life expanded to make room for another human being. I believe that is what parenting is. Your life changes totally and it takes a 360-degree turn to make room for your offspring.

Before she came along, I lived a carefree and singularly single lifestyle. I was contented with my life, making a living out of what I am most passionate about – chasing and writing stories and traveling to the different corners of the world because of what I was doing. Really, I couldn’t ask for more.

And then I became a mom. Only then did I realize that nothing will ever be as good and as fulfilling as being a mother. Journalism, although it will always be that one true job I will always want to do, comes only second to being a mom.

At 10:58 p.m. on March 31, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl I’ve seen my whole life. Her thick dark hair and striking big round eyes were the first things I noticed when the nurse put her on my chest. It was the first time I saw her and for several minutes, I just held her close to me, enjoying one of the most amazing moments in my life.

My daughter is now six months old. I am still chasing stories and churning out words everyday but I make sure there’s more than enough time for her and for her needs.

It’s not difficult because her father and I have become the parents that we should be. Our baby’s needs come first.

It can be physically exhausting. There are times when my already sleep-deprived soul needs to wake up very early in the morning to prepare food for the baby, bathe her and play with her. It can also be tiring to be taking care of her after work especially when you’ve had a busy day.

Being a newspaper reporter isn’t usually stressful but it can be at times, especially when you have to divide the time between covering a press conference, doing an interview and submitting around three stories in time for the 4 p.m. deadline.

It’s good that parenting is a shared responsibility. Two pairs of hands are better than just one and two minds are best when it comes to raising a child.

The difficulties, nonetheless, end at the physical level. At least for now that my child is still very young.

To be a parent is one of the best things that can happen to anyone. It’s true what they say – parents forget how tired they are when they see their offspring.

But I have no grand illusions. I know that parenting will be difficult along the way, judging from my own mother’s wrinkles and increasing number of white hair.

My simple dream is to nurture an individual who will never stop to struggle for what’s best for her and society. I believe that is what parenting is about.

When that happens, I can say that I have done it and I have done it well.

In the meantime, there’s a little girl to take care of, to grow, to nurture and to prepare for the great big world.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

cloud nine


My daughter's first word. Heard it for the first time at 5 a.m. yesterday. Nothing could be sweeter.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The kingdom of the dead

The smell of fetid sweat pervaded in the air, inside the narrow, dimly-lit walkway. In the darkness, I searched the pocket of my worn-out jeans for coins to pay for the P2 entrance fee.

A fat, friendly-looking man in plain white shirt and brown shorts was waiting at the exit to collect the money. I paid my dues and when I went past him, I was in awe of what I saw.

The maze-like passageway opened up to the kingdom of the dead. There in front of me, shining under the glimmer of the early morning sun was a vast expanse of graves and hundreds of people visiting their dead.

It was November 1 and I was at the Manila North Cemetery to chronicle this year’s All Saint’s Day commemoration. I was privileged to join Luis and Akira, two of the country’s most passionate photojournalists for the day trip.

We entered Manila’s biggest burial place through one of the many side entrances: through the homes of the many informal settlers living around the cemetery. The small handwritten sign which read, “Shortcut to FPJ, this way,” caught our attention.

The settlers have opened their homes to outsiders for P1 or P2 per person. It was a reflection of Filipino ingenuity. We wasted no time and stepped inside a small shanty. In minutes, we found ourselves inside the cemetery, just a few steps away from the grave of movie icon Fernando Poe Jr.

It was actually a small amount to pay to be very near the heart of the cemetery without passing through the barricade of policemen, traffic enforcers and volunteers who were guarding the main entrance.

We walked around the area the whole morning, taking snapshots of almost everything.

The scenes of the day were as colorful as the millions and millions of graves and epitaphs that filled the cemetery.

We climbed tombs and mausoleums and passed through mourners of all ages. Some were busy cleaning the graves of their loved ones. Many were eating, laughing and enjoying the day. Children roamed around as if they were in one giant playground. Many found time to sleep, right there on the graves of their loved ones.

Our cameras just kept on clicking. We made our way around the labyrinthine cemetery. We allowed ourselves to get lost into the dark corners and narrow walkways. In some parts, an eerie silence accompanied us. In most of the cemetery, Filipinos had one big feast.

Hunger soon caught up on us as our tired bodies also begged for rest. We left the cemetery after a few hours with pictures of the living and the dead.

It was to me, an experience for more profound than I had expected.