30 March 2019

Blessings Be upon You

by misslampa

Papa has always been more old-school about the Filipino tradition of pagmamano. Right after my siblings and I would tell him we’re about to leave. he’d offer us a free hand which we’d meet with an outstretched palm. We would then bow slowly until his knuckles lightly touch our forehead while listening to him say, “God bless.” And then we’d be on our way. That’s the classic way, which is also how I’ve done it with older relatives, my parents’ friends, and the parents of my friends.

But my Mama, she bestows her blessing upon us in a slightly different way.


This was way back when both my parents were still taller than my siblings and me. :-)

Mama used to have to bow down a bit to find our foreheads, where she lightly traced a small cross with her thumb while the rest of her fingers lay on top of our heads—much like how the priest does it when baptizing babies—before she sent us out the door. While doing so, she’d say a quick prayer and ask the Lord to bless her children and keep them safe from harm. Then she’d smile with her kind eyes and say “Ingat, anak!” (“Take care, my child!”) before letting us leave for school.

Our late teens saw my siblings and I all growing taller than my mother, and so we had to outgrow the bowing bit of this routine. Since then, she’d just raise her hand in front of her face and find our foreheads there, still waiting for her touch and blessing. She’d then hug us tightly then say “I love you” and “Ingat ka” and mean it like only a mother who’s dedicated most of her life to her children could.

What I don’t tell them is that every morning, I still look back at my reflection in the mirror, lightly knock my knuckles against my forehead, and trace a cross on it with my thumb so I’d still feel like I’m getting their blessing.

Taking part in this parent-child dance is still one of my favorite things about coming home. At 74, Papa still knows the moves like the back of his hand and now adds a quick kiss or hug sometimes, to my sappy heart’s delight! Mama’s 70 and has been extra forgetful since she had a stroke three years ago, but when she happens to be up before I leave and I come into her room to ask for her blessing, she still remembers every step, down to hugging me with all her might and wishing me well like only a mother who’s dedicated most of her life to her children could.

I hug her back but now, I trace a cross on her forehead as well, partly to make her laugh (my sister and I kid our parents about how they’re now the babies in the family) but mostly to beg God to please please give her peace of mind, a happy heart, and a good night’s sleep—things that haven’t been coming to her as easily. I do the same with Papa and I’m glad he also lets me, especially because I know I only have the rest of either their lives or mine to keep doing it.

I know tradition dictates that it always has to be younger one receiving the blessing. But because I’m my mother’s daughter, I’d like to think I’m also allowed to do things a bit differently.

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25 March 2019

On Not Knowing

by misslampa

What happens when three non-science majors agree on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle as a blog prompt?

Nothing, that’s what. But only for a short time. We resisted and grumbled and agreed it was a bad idea, but in the end, we all chose to put pen to paper and write anyway.

It baffles me, this idea that you can never be simultaneously certain about both the speed and the direction of something at the microscopic level, and that there’s no way to accurately measure one without deliberately messing up the other. It’s like a guarantee from the universe that we can never one-up it.

That way, we’re sure to be a little unsure for as long as we’re here.

Which is actually how I feel these days, truth be told. For years, I’ve held fast to this dream of pursuing a Ph.D. scholarship abroad, but all my recent attempts at re-evaluating my life plan end up in this resolve to channel more of my finite resources (time and energy, especially) towards being there for my family instead once I’m done with JET. And since I’ve never been as clear about any other goal in a long time—except maybe about wanting to get down to my ideal weight, haha—I suddenly find myself not knowing where I am nor where I’m headed.

Pretty positive this is not the groundbreaking uncertainty that shot Heisenberg to fame, but it’s making me lose my footing nonetheless. 

To make myself feel better, I think about how I’m really just a speck in the galaxy and must therefore be governed by this principle, too. But it doesn’t work, and I am forced to acknowledge that it’s tough to be lost when you’ve been clear about certain things most of your life.

Way tougher than having to blog about the quantum world, definitely.

12 February 2019

I’m not into Valentine’s, but…

by misslampa

20190209_152924Skies were overcast and it was snowing last Saturday here in the lovely hipster town of Higashikawa, but I geared up, headed out, and went cross-country skiing anyway.

It’s not that I’ve fallen in love with the sport, but classic クロカン (read as kurokan and short for “cross-country”) skiing is beginning to have the same effect that running had on me when I took it up about seven years ago. You step forward with your left foot and then with your right and then again with your left and soon enough, your head is clear and that immediate next step is all you think about. I’m not there yet, but I imagine cross-country skiing will have a similar meditative lightness to it.

I’ll also be joining my first cross-country skiing race in less than a month, and I have every intention to progress from waddling to sliding before then. Because given that I signed up for the shortest course (only 1km long!) and will be skiing with babies and toddlers and their parents mostly, my motivation to become better is fueled by this burning desire to not fall and squish little people come race day.

I guess I was too focused on that while I was out skiing because I was already back in the parking lot when I realized it was the weekend before Valentine’s Day, and all I have for company are my skis and all this vastness around me.


That thought stayed with me during the drive home, and I remembered what my best friend suggested I tell people when they pry into my (lack of a) love life: that skiing keeps me busy.

It can be your alibi, he told me in jest.

This, after he also just reminded me to be more open to romantic love instead of saying no to possibilities even before exploring them. Several chat lines after, being in love has suddenly turned into a crime but thanks to cross-country skiing, I can enter a plea of not guilty?

It amused me, his not-so-subtle use of reverse psychology. So I smiled while insisting I didn’t want an alibi because this time, I’d rather find and be found.

I wanted to listen to Jollibee and have faith in love, I said.

It was cheesy and all, but he was kind enough to laugh. And then we ran out of things to say, so we just left it at that.