Kids, you can change the world…




“I grew up with the Jetson’s dreaming of video phones. It’s real now.” — Steve Jobs, 2010



Incredible life.

You changed the world.

RIP Steve Jobs.



Brown out lifestyle guide



The kids packed their “emergency bags” as soon as the power went out.


Last Tuesday when the power went out at 10 in the morning, Sophia and Lily packed their emergency bags. When I checked what was inside, they had mostly toys, books and lots of Dewberry cookies. No towel, no underwear, no flashlight (not even her new Moleskine reading lamp), no water or real food. So we made a new check list – a whistle, light source, a towel that can double as a blankie, one change of clothes including underwear, water and canned goods. “But I don’t eat canned goods,” Lily said. “You will in an emergency,” is what I said.

My friend Carlo Tadiar, editor in chief of Metro Home magazine, tweeted yesterday, “We really must come up with a brownout lifestyle guide.” We both lost power and were going nuts. So we began this exchange of experiences and advice. He said,”Well, to begin with, it’s essential to have hurricane lamps. That whole candles flickering in the wind business is just nasty.” And to that I replied, “we have no hurricane lamps. We used a lampara, of the antique kind.” Lamparas are oil lamps. Then he says “DaphneOP uses lamparas. Chic!” Anything with live fire scares me though, so we never kept those unattended. For our campout room (we all slept together) we switched to the rechargeable emergency light, but I used the warm bulb and not the white fluorescent side.

While worrying about spending the night with no power (should we evacuate or what), I had to keep all 3 girls entertained. As most parents of young children will tell you, it isn’t always easy. So I resorted to things my parents did with us during storms.

Here’s my lifestyle guide to brown outs –


1. Have your alternative light source ready. Our lamparas always have a bit of oil in it. And our battery operated lamps (luckily) were fully recharged. But this is the best gadget we have. LED flash lights that are powered by friction. Just wind it up and it lights. No need for batteries. My dad gave us a few of these from Toronto.


2. Allow air to circulate through your home. Open windows on opposite sides to allow a healthy flow of air – cross-ventillation. But if there’s deadly howling wind, then use your judgement. Key is to allow air to flow. Opening just one window won’t cut it.


3. Do not open your freezer EVER. As soon as power died, I ran to the freezer and took out some chicken & pork. Then instructed everyone to NOT open the fridge and freezer. The chicken was made into Tinola. And the pork was allowed to thaw til dinner and turned into adobo. The freezer stayed shut for 24 hours. I was very strict about that. Everything remained frozen stiff. Nothing went bad. (This is not my kitchen. But it could very well be… sigh. Hello peg! Sorry, I don’t know where I got this photo from. Could be Dwell or Elle Decor).


4. Bring out life jackets or other any other flotation device from the summer. These are for children. We have one for each kid. Just have them within reach.


5. The easiest activity – drawing. Let the kids do art projects. This should last a good 30 minutes, if you’re lucky.


6. Go back to basic games. We assembled this really cute “world peace” jigsaw puzzle on the floor. This took close to 3 hours. It had 500 pieces.


7. Bring out the board games for the kids. Resist letting play with your iPad as you’ll need that for your own sanity. We also played Monopoly, Snakes & Ladders and Operation. But this puzzle was most unforgettable to them. Our backs hurt after working in the floor. Then we played “massage” on each other’s back. At night, we played shadow puppets using our toes. I’m sure they’ll remember that.


8. Reading is always good. Do this with your kids even when you have power on, of course.


9. Bring out the toys. Just keep the kids as busy as possible. I tried to avoid the tiny toys but…


10. Why do they make toys so small these days? Apparently even Barbie didn’t like playing in the dark. She and Lily hung out by the back window for some natural light and ventillation.


11. If you know a storm is coming, charge all your electronics right away. By the time the power went out, all my gadgets were fully charged. I used my iPhone 4 with 3G. When the battery of the iPhone drained, I charged it on my laptop which I didn’t plan on using anyway. When the phone had 20% battery left, I stopped using it and switched to the iPad and that’s where I was tweeting from all night. The iPad stayed on forever. Have a battery adaptor for your car ready just in case. But don’t run your car in an enclosed garage, ever!


12. Never underestimate these rechargeable fans. We got this in True Value during the last brown out in 2010 and didn’t get to use it ’til now. It remained charged for over a year. Mind you I only turned it on once the kids were in bed. And we kept it on the lowest speed – just for a constant air flow. I don’t know the brand.


13. The rest of the time, I kept fanning like mad. Nothing beats the Beabi fan. At P350, it is matronic especially in size, but boy does it fan! One sway and so much power!


14. If all else fails, pack up and leave. I must admit, this had always been my first instinct – to go to a hotel or my cousin’s house. Thanks to the goodwill from my work, we’ve done Hyatt, Marriott and Alabang hotels during past brownouts . This time I didn’t have it in me to think of leaving. The roads were unsafe. And I kept thinking of all the people that had to be evacuated from Sofitel & other Manila Bay hotels and moved to other hotels. Sofitel, sigh…  On the 24th hour, we went to our club to recharge our batteries and ourselves.


Other must-haves and must-dos:

15. Always have cash. I’ve been caught in the situation with only P200 cash. And all the ATMs were dead (last July 2010 storm). I had to go as far as Baclaran to find a working ATM.

16. Spend the day rearranging your living room. Move furniture around. Redecorate. (Most of my single non-parent friends did this. I would do this… but I had three kids who were pulling me in every direction.)

17. Make sure your car/cars have gas. My dad, being the military guy always reminds us of this – together with canned goods, crackers, bottled water.

18. Clean your gutters/eaves regularly. Also the canals in front of your house. Stop the use of plastic bags.

19. Make sure you have stored water. I don’t know the logic, but there have been many times when they’ve cut off our water supply even during storms.

20. Be very careful about candles. Personally I’m terrified of them. I do have beautiful scented ones. But I only light them while I’m writing… and blow them out right away. I just hate the idea of possibly leaving a candle on.



21. I have to include this. My husband read my post and said, “You didn’t include my iPod shuffle? We used it to monitor the news.” Ok, so a transistor radio is a must. One of our lamps has a transistor radio but I kept it off in fear of losing battery for light. So I monitored the news via Twitter. By habit, I listen to DZMM (AM radio) for news everyday in the car. But there is 92.3 FM that’s the only all-news radio station on the FM band. This makes it accessible by cellphone and gadgets like the iPod shuffle. The hubby works for TV5 and 92.3FM is their baby. We had this hooked on a small “hamburger” speaker (but it’s so beat up, Patrick won’t allow me to post a photo of it.)


Please feel free to add your tips…


The new normal



I hope you and your families are safe and dry by now. That was a real nasty storm we had there. So much destruction and so many deaths. And it wasn’t even as strong as Milenyo 2006 or as wet as Ondoy 2009. This may be our new normal for September.

If you were with me on Twitter the night of typhoon Pedring, you’d know about my ordeal. We had no electricity for 28.5 hours. I was using Twitter to contact Meralco. When that wasn’t working, I whined in Facebook amongst my personal friends. Thanks to social media, I felt very connected. We were all trying to cope.

Please allow me to put things into perspective. Our house wasn’t affected by floods during Ondoy. Just the same, Pedring didn’t do any damage to us. We simply lost our electricity at 10am. We got it back at 2:30pm the next day. I know many people who got affected -my friends who lived near Manila Bay and worked at Sofitel. I got in touch with them right away.

I only started tweeting Meralco after they issued a statement saying they’d prioritize resumption of power in hospital service areas and those unaffected by floods (accessible). I figured we fell in that no-flood category. So I waited… for 28.5 hours. I had reported our situation to Meralco from the 4th hour and it went on and on and on. I didn’t sleep a wink. I watched the kids and fanned them all night.

On the 24th hour, I got through to a person in Meralco. By then 98% of power had been restored in the city. Ours was still out. Turns out our circuit wasn’t even listed as ones that went out during the storm. That’s why they didn’t come! A huge tree got in the way of one post, so only our street’s power went out. And despite the repeated reports from our street, it never got through to Meralco til after all the storm-related busted circuits were restored. So ya, that was pretty useless stress.

There is a reason I’m paranoid about brown outs and storms…


In 2006, I had to drive through the eye of the storm Milenyo. Trees were falling. Electric posts and lamp posts were swaying and crashing. Debris was flying everywhere. I was alone in my small car. I was driving myself. Terrified. But I still took pictures… by instinct.


Milenyo, 2006. I was shooting UZ that morning. We knew there was a storm coming but the show had to go on. The city was caught unprepared. We all underestimated the strength of the storm. We thought the storm would hit in the afternoon but it changed course and got to Manila the time I was out on the road at 11am. I can’t believe I survived this drive home all by myself. There were billboards and wires flailing all over the place. I really feared for my life.


Milenyo 2006. That night we used our old lamparas (oil lamps) as light. The wind was still and it was humid. Lily was just 2 months old then. No Stella yet. We had no power for 3 days. We moved to my cousin’s house to escape. But that one night in our house with no power, my baby got a cough and a cold.


Because of the storm and brown out, Lily got very sick. She developed pneumonia. At 2 months old. It was the scariest time of our life.


And that’s my perspective.

Every time I hear stories from families who lost so much from Ondoy, my heart breaks. I cannot fathom the pain, fear and resilience. I’ve seen homes with water marks to remind them how deep the flood was. I’ve met many children and infants affected by disaster. I’ve gone to relocation areas – the work continues and it never seems to end.

To my friend who felt so free to lecture me about perspective, I hope you get the message. While you struggled to save your luxury cars from water damage and worried about wifi, espresso and battery charging, I struggled to protect my three young children from possible illness due to these forces. Let’s not compare. Let’s not judge. It’s not about who had it worse or who had it “so light.”

God bless us all in this “new normal.”

My next post – a lifestyle survival guide to brown outs.


P.S. Thank you for the apology. It’s all forgotten.




Our Kids



I thought of sharing these photos in light of what’s happening in news lately. So much hate, cyber crimes, cyber bullying and actual bullying in schools. Should we discuss this? I’ve been really disturbed by what’s happening all over – the young guys in Pampanga, the 11-year old boy in Toronto and the 14 year old gay boy in the US.

As parents of young children, we’re constantly holding their hands trying to raise them in an environment filled with love and understanding. Then after preschool, they’re faced with mean kids, bullies, scary people. What do you do?

There’s no step by step manual for parenting. I’m not a fan of reading parent guide books. Luckily I’m surrounded by friends who happen to be professionals in psychology and family counselling. I try to work with the wisdom they impart regarding parenting. And I also base a lot of my parenting skills on the way my parents raised me. I don’t really have a formula. I try my best to be present and active in their lives – together as a family and one-on-one with each kid. We balance being doting parents and imposing discipline in a positive way. Only time will tell if we’re doing the right thing.


Sophia’s “novel”


My 8 year old started writing her “novel.” She told me that they would be quizzed in computer classes this week. Unlike most urban private-schoolled 8-year olds in Metro Manila, she does not have a Facebook account. I refuse to let her into this crazy world of the internet just yet. Facebook rules say – no kids below 13 should join. There’s a reason for that. So no Facebook. For keeping in touch with our family overseas, we have the iPhone Facetime. For games, they borrow our iPads. For talking to friends, we try to arrange parent-supervised play dates.

But she wanted to practise her typing skills. So I taught her how to use Microsoft Word instead. Hence, the novel. Chapter 1 and 2 deals with war, moving from Japan to Canada, bullies, money for college and going back to Canada. I posted this in Instagram and I got interesting feedback, like “war?”, “complex topics for an 8year old?”, “wow!” It got me thinking. Yes, she is a bit deep. Deeper than I was at that age. She’s a voracious reader! I met with the school teachers over the weekend. She’s doing very well academically and she finally has a school best friend. I almost cried when the teacher told me she’s very intelligent and that they were very proud of her. We don’t even give that much emphasis on academics right now. Absolutely no pressure. Same way our parents did with us.

She has depth, yes. We do not let them watch noontime shows, ASAP or telenovelas. But she’s been to rock concerts and to TV stations and the set of Willie’s show (off hours). We turn off the TV if there’s sensational news like a horrible car crash or riots. But despite those precautions, she’s still very aware of the general issues of the world – the tsunami, earthquakes. She made up a club called Peace Club. She learned about World War 1 and 2 because of Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. She learned about fatal diseases because of Beatrix Potter and the recent AH1N1 and Dengue scares. She knows about poverty and malnourishment because of my UNICEF work. So really, we can only shelter them that much. They eventually have to know about the world. In the case of my 8 year old, she just seems more interested in current events than most kids her age.

So now I’m thinking, should she really be this deep? She has her diversions; she watches pre-approved and age-appropriate movies, she plays with Barbies, reads Total Girl magazine every month, she plays in the park, practices ice skating and she has her BFF’s (one unfortunately moved to Oman, perhaps the inspiration of her novel). And lately she started playing Moshi Monsters online – only while I’m around though. Those networking games are so scary as well. I told her to never give her name, address and school’s name to her “friends.” Naturally she asked why a hundred times. So I had to tell her that there could be bad people pretending to be kids – with the intentions of being “children grabbers.”

It’s so scary to be a parent now…


While we live in this crazy cyber world, I always make it a point that the kids play outdoors. They get their park time. One afternoon, I had to force the 5-year old to go for a walk. She didn’t want to get sweaty. Uh oh. The cutest thing about their outdoor play is their “pasalubong” for me. Lily never fails to bring me a flower everytime. Sophia has outgrown this ritual.


Lily’s been doing this flower thing for years. I treasure these moments.


This was Lily’s present before I went to India.


And when I got back from my Maguindanao mission with UNICEF, Lily presented me with this.


Last Thursday Lily, 5 and Stella, 2 gave me Kalachuchi flowers from our garden.


On Friday, it was Santan again – from Lily and Stella.


Then Saturday afternoon, we had Kalachuchis again from Stella.


Lily’s been teaching Stella about this afternoon ritual.


And for a change, she gave me weeds. Or as my mother calls them, “wild flowers.”


I wish our kids’ lives could always be as lovely and friendly as it is in preschool. With drawings and hand-picked wild flowers. I want to protect them from mean people. But I want them to learn to stand up and fight for themselves.

I want to rid this world of bullies. Every child deserves an environment with no violence – from adults and fellow children. I talked to my sister about this. Hanni’s son, a 4 year old, had an anti-bullying day in his Toronto preschool. I asked her to share what they learned. Maybe parents and teachers here should start talking about this. I’ve been hearing too many bullying stories lately. I wish we could do something about it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…


Death and life



There was a baby born onboard a PAL flight from Manila to San Francisco yesterday. It’s one of those amazing events that makes everyone smile (after gasping and wondering why a 35-week pregnant woman had to travel long haul). It was even more special to me because my friend from childhood, Agnes Casas Kirkhart, was one of the nurses who helped deliver the baby. Agnes is an OR Nurse at Kaiser. There were no doctors on board. So Agnes stepped up and helped deliver the baby boy. She’s a hero!

You know how they say, things happen for a reason? This is one of those stories. I was with Agnes (her nickname is Chiqui) just last week due to an unfortunate situation – the passing of her dad, Gen. Dominico Casas (PAF). I am very close friends with Chiqui’s brother, Jojo Casas who is the only sibling based in Manila. She and her other brother Julius, my brother’s barkada, were in Manila for a week. I cannot imagine the sorrow of flying hundreds of miles to witness the burial of a loved one. It must be dreadful. But such is the reality of living far away and having aging parents. Sigh.


Funeral of Gen. Casas at the Libingan ng mga Bayani


The Casas family during the military march to their father’s resting place.


We all grew up together in what I still believe was one of the best places to raise a child in the 70’s – Nichols Air Base. For this reason, I feel most attached to my Air Force family than I do with any other group, club or school in Manila. We are there for each other during births, deaths, anniversaries, balikbayan reunions and for no specific reason but just to hang out.


My friends since childhood, Jonathan de Leon, Julius Casas, Mel Lerma and her dad Gen Roger Asuncion (also my dad’s super close friend).


A bittersweet reunion of our barkada. Here, the Casas siblings – Jojo, Julius and Agnes (Chiqui) – with Maiza Mueco.


Days after the funeral, Chiqui went back to San Francisco with her children. Apparently it had been very stressful logistically as well. They had to reschedule flights, not to mention spend extra money on this. Julius decided to cut his Manila stay short and join Chiqui on this flight to assist her with her two young children. Stress and sorrow. I can’t imagine.

Then onboard the flight, Chiqui is called to duty. A baby is born. And the story ends with a smile. Amazing. I’m still smiling up to now.

After the siblings went back to the US, Jojo’s status update read, “Come to think of it Julius and Chiqui went home during one of the saddest moments in our lives, the passing away of our dad…then went back to their second home helping to bring new life…stories that will live on. Thank you Lord for bringing them safely home.”


Here’s the story in ABC News. It’s really lovely.