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An Unusual Christmas Week

These years Christmas is low key.

Veneration of the Child Jesus

Four weeks ago I went back to work and landed myself in East Africa, Uganda to be exact. My work even took me to the north of the country, in Arua. When I arrived I knew that I will be spending the holidays away from home, that’s why I made connections to the only Ugandan friend I have … Silvester.

Sil and I worked for a year in Palestine. Living in Gaza for the whole of two thousand and sixteen, and I got to know his family. From the many stories we shared hanging around the house, for the lack of places to go that is not banned and the lack of other expats who do not have the same security restrictions as us, I got to know them as if we’ve met.

So when I arrived in Uganda, the second day, I met Martha, his beautiful wife and the latest addition to his brood of three boys – Michael. The little tot is special to me … he’s the namesake of my dad and both were born on the feast day of St. Michael September 29, eighty-three years apart.

Miguel and Michael

It has been decided much later that I will be spending the whole Christmas break in their house and with his family in Kampala.

Seguku hills

The view … sunset over Seguku hills in Kampala

In the outskirts of Kampala is where the Kasozi is raising their family. The house is exactly how he described it and from the photos, he had shown when he broke ground.

Coming over though was a bit of a challenge, having driven long hours from Arua that day, I was eager to just get to their home. We set off quite late than normal because of some last minute paper works before the office is officially closed for the holidays. We lost three hours from the usual six-morning rendezvous, we set off at nine and there were near mishaps along the way plus the mandatory lunch and shopping. We reached the city center at the peak of the traffic of Kampala and being the last to be dropped off I reached Martha’s home at ten that night.

I’ve been on the road for over thirteen hours. Felt like I traveled from Manila to Doha all over again 😳.

The house is over the hills, overlooking south Kampala and across other hills. Rough road and uphill I was just happy our driver was game despite the late hours.

The morning after

Martha welcomed me despite the time and showed me where I will be sleeping in the next two weeks – I am roomies with the boys VJ and Mattie, three and two years old sleepyheads. When they woke up they wondered who is there sleeping in what used to be empty bed across their room.

Sweet boys, I woke up with being addressed as Aunty followed by “how are you?” Two sets of eyes wondering who this muzungo is … the white-skinned aunty (although I am more brown than white 👩🏻‍🦱).

Riot everyday

The boys born a year apart are like twins. They wore similar clothes when we go out and copy each other all the time. But more than that they are frenemies. Always someone is crying and calling for mommy but when they are in good terms they are the image of bliss. A sweetheart if you ask me until one bites the other 🤭.

No they are not twins 😜

Good thing mom has the patience of a saint. Never saw her angry, stern yes but not angry nor frustrated. Wondering how some parents react when one and worst three are acting up together making a riot. Waiting to see what Michael is like when he turns two … it would be a noisy house over Seguku hills.

🙏🏼

I am thankful for this experience, an immersion I didn’t plan. In the Philippines, to experience 101 hospitality one needs to be invited to live in a Filipino house, rich or poor the experience will be profound. Same as I have here although I imposed my visit I am experiencing a holiday like no other.

Happy to meet Silvester and Martha’s family including their immediate extended family. It is truly wonderful to live a life like a local even though I am muzungo.

It will be hard to leave but will soon do before I overstay my welcome, but actually to return to work up north.

We Take Care of the Flock

I recently moved for work.

This time I find my self waking up to the vast sky of Arua in northern Uganda.

It’s my first time here, but not in Uganda. I was here over 10 years ago in 2007 and enjoyed the country’s offer of natural parks, safaris, death defying rapids and of course glamping in the #NilePorch. The time when everything seems magical, like out of the jungle book 😊.

What am I doing here?

Not much really, at least for now. But soon work will pick up and will help out delivering rehabilitation services to people with disabilities living in the camps around here.

While work is still slow, I am enjoying my time with colleagues slash friends. We’re living as a small family away from our own.

The flock

I arrived as the third wheel in our small expat group based in Arua. Two others arrived and settled in before me. But I arrived not only to meet people but also chicken and guinea fowl.

Yes, they are our tribe! And we have our guards and cleaners helping out to make us understand the way of our flock.

In the beginning my friends here just want those that lay eggs and eat insects.

So we got roosters and hen. We got the eggs. It comes twice or thrice a week. Then the guinea fowl came next. The more the merrier 🤗.

The fowl we named them Jack and Rose from the infamous titanic just to make the relationship more personal 🤪. The rooster is called Lucky because he was saved from the butcher and also he has two wives. But we can’t seem to agree on the names for the hens.

Finding our little happiness

Arua is not without a fun place to be. But after a long day under the sun, or from sitting long hours inside the car 🚘 and office, a little diversion at home is not so bad.

The chickens and fowls become our after work responsibilities. In fact even before work. They become part of our lives when they start dominating our mornings calling out the sun 🌞 telling us its time to get up and get ready. And I didn’t realise Jack can be so loud anytime of the day😳.

Having them around is such good idea – to kills snakes, or eat insects and more. Plus of course we thought of the meat they can give us. But we hope we will not get to that part and feel guilty eating our pets.

Simple joy, great stress relief

The flock may seem little and odd but in the kind of work we do, all that is good is magnified and all that is not is forgotten.

If we cannot avoid to be cynical, we just have to look at our plucking flocks and we are relieved. We just start laughing 😂.

You should see us fussing about their house, their mating and their foods 🥘.

They are like one of us, they also need TLC because they give us the relief we need to break the stresses of the day, and have a restful evening until they wake us up again and again and again the next day!

#NeverAgain: The Parallelism of the Suffering of the Filipino People Then and Now

Ironically today is also the #InternationalDayofPeace and apt occasion for us to go back to the history of the #Philippines at the time we were ruled by Marcos, his family and his cronies.

I was still in cloth diapers when Martial Law was declared, I was in my ruffled knickers running around when all the atrocities were happening around me, and I was in grade school when #EdsaRevolution happened. The events that happened in those times did not impact my childhood because life then was normal. You can say, I enjoyed the perks of being under the rule because as a child I am impressionable — I will agree to anything you tell me and eat whatever was on the table.

But as I grew up I realized, life was not easy, we are not rich, many more are poorer than the poor us. While those in the government are rich, and so are their friends. I soon realized there’s wealth inequality in our country and there are insurgencies in the mountains fighting for the greater good of who is still something that baffles me up to now.

I never like politics, we never talk about it, but I am not naive. Mind you my mom was a loyalist to Marcos, and we never ate galunggong and just to oppose we say we are pro Aquino but it was not true because for me they are all cut from the same cloth only some are more greedy than the others.

Now fast forward to 2018, the early part of the video – a review of how it – the Martial Law all begun seems to be repeating itself in the personality of the self-proclaimed “good” leader – the good mayor who is deluding himself as the president of the Republic. He emulates someone who had divided the country into their own pieces of Legoland and does not care if the legos are trampled upon. We’re going back in the dark times and worst, the young and the poor are being led to believe that this is the way forward, to progress.

But do you see the parallelism of then and now?

The same is happening again and maybe worst … the prices of food are soaring while our lives continue to derail. Plummeting down like we didn’t know any better. Security even inside your own home is becoming insecure and an illusion of a good life seems to be getting blurry and the dreams becoming more unreachable.

You will hear, those loyal to the Marcoses and to the current government that no martial law happened. Conditioning the minds as if all of us are demented. I suggest you watch the video.

If you can maintain an open mind or remove bias in your system, you will see the parallelism of THEN and NOW and you ask again — did it or did it not happen?

If I can answer for you … it happened, and I will tell you it should not happen #NEVERAGAIN again because we should never let it happen for us now and for the future generations (again).