The Currency of Life

buddha kindnessIt was a few days before the deadline for graduation ball registration. I had been waiting for a particular person (not A♥, he is quick to remind me) to ask me to the final ball of our high school years. I was jittery and already a bit afraid that the call would never come but I had my heart set on that one boy. Just him. I crossed my fingers and waited.

Perhaps sensing the distress I was in, a friend came up to me and said “Hey, Pinks, I know how much going out with him means to you, but if he doesn’t ask you, I’m here. I’ll take you to the ball.” I hugged him awkwardly (back then, hugs were always awkward affairs) and thanked him profusely.

“No big deal,” he said. “That’s what friends do for friends.”

As it turns out, I finally got the call the night before the deadline and what I mistakenly thought as my dream-come-true did come to be. Still, in all these years, I have never forgotten the thoughtful words of that young man. Although he and I have gone on separate roads since then, his act of kindness remains undiminished in my memory.

The other night, A♥ and I went to say goodbye to him.

His was the third wake we have been to in as many weeks. The first was for my cousin, who passed away after a bout of illness. Then, early this week, we paid our respects to a friend’s beloved parent. On Wednesday night, we bade farewell to our Pisay batch mate and dear friend of our youth.

As we find ourselves going more to wakes and funerals of those we hold dear, we are changed by the knowledge that Time is no longer our friend. Life is short and each passing second draws us nearer our end. While we used to measure our lives by grades and achievements, by graduations and promotions, by the leaps and bounds of our youth, today we are suddenly more aware of the beats of our hearts and the breaths we take. For the first time in a really long while, we feel mortal.

But life, as they say, is a one-time offer. You can’t have it more than once. As such, we need to live and live well. To love and love fully. To make each second, each breath, each beat, count. And we need to live with kindness as the currency that drives our short lives. “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”* – it’s to live forever.

Judging from the testimonials on our friend’s Facebook wall, kindness was never in short supply in his life. He gave it away often and all too willingly.

Many years ago, I was one of the recipients of his gift. I only wish I got to say “Thank you” one last time.


*Hallowed Ground, Thomas Campbell


The Happiness Series (xii): Jewels* of Friends

If I had a flower for every time I thought of you…I could walk through my garden forever.”  ~Alfred Tennyson

On hindsight, I was cute!

There was a point in my young life when I had very few friends. I was eleven then, fat, with huge buck teeth and thick eyeglasses. I was miserable, and not many people knew it. I made one best friend during that time (she is still my best friend today) and a few more over the next three years, but by the end of seventh grade, I could count with one hand the number of friends I had.

Beginning high school, however, I began to be more comfortable in my own skin. I made friends, many of them boys, who also liked the nerdy things I enjoyed as a teenager- Star Wars, Gameboys, and morbid anatomy, to name a few. But even as I made so many good friends that time, I was even lucker to find one real best friend during that time. (Ten years later, I married him.) 🙂

When I got older, my circle began to shrink again as my world revolved solely around the family my husband and I were raising. I lost touch with so many friends as they spread across the globe in the pursuit of careers. The rest disappeared in the haze of our busy lives. Worse, I didn’t have anything in common with many of them anymore.

In the last few years, however, I was surprised to discover new friends where I least expected them. Having gotten used to a life isolated from many because of my son’s disabiliy, finding these really wonderful people from all over the world has brought me so much joy. Who would have thought that a child’s plaything would be the key that opened the door to friendships again? Suddenly, my fingers (and toes) are no longer enough.

I write this as my personal thank you to so many friends hereJoanna, Caryl, Carol, Caren, Cha, Noreen, Isabel, Carol, Skin, Ledz, Meliz –  and abroadSarah, Karen, Candy, Pornphan, Jonathan,  Hayley, Hai Yen, Pei, Hayley, Courtney, Eric– and if I miss any, it’s not because they’re not my friends but because my senior citizen neurons and their synapses are firing up short. I want to say thank you to all of them, because their friendships have opened up my world.  God bless your kind hearts, dearest friends.

(In picture, Ms. Bibbit, Panda, Kittymama, Kate Dante, and Rocky)


I purposely left out one name there, and this piece is very apt for her because her name translates to English as “jewel” and “buttercup.” Her name is Boglárka but we call her Bogi for short.

I met Bogi last year in the Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters forum and then in Facebook shortly after. She and I have exchanged thoughts, Sylvanian and otherwise, over in Facebook and I’ve enjoyed her blog, Life in Plumcake, enormously over the past year. Bogi is one of the nicest people I’ve met in the Sylvanian forum, and were we even remotely near each other, she would be exactly the kind of person you’d want to have for a close neighbor. Yes, she is sweet!  ♥✿◕‿◕✿♥

Bogi and I did a trade recently, and it was with utmost excitement that I started on my package for her and awaited hers for me. When you have to surprise someone you like, just getting the gift parcel together is an adventure in itself.  And what can I say about when her gift comes? It feels like Christmas has come too early!

This was the package I sent to Bogi. 🙂

And this was the one I received- wheeee!

Alphonse was eager to open it, mistakenly thinking it was his, heehee. As he opened the package, he handed the contents to me one by one. The first things we both saw were these wonderful dresses crocheted (with love♥) by Bogi’s mom. Just beautiful! Köszönöm szépen!

I was able to get a few critters to model them for me (I had sent the critters packing just the day before that, to move to a new location in the house)

but this is how they look, as modeled by Bogi’s little critters. Aren’t they sights for sore eyes!

These handcrafted pillows, bag, and small rug would make Kitty’s room in Sylvania easily the most coveted! Even the design is hand drawn- WOW! 🙂

I knew they were coming- Bogi told me beforehand- but seeing them in person brought me real joy! I have been wanting these for a long time now so these are real treats! 🙂

Now, this turned out to be Alphonse’s favorite in the package; this miniature owl that is so tiny it is only a little bigger than the tip of my pointer finger! I held it out to him to kiss it but the sly one wanted to run away with it, heehee. When I took it away, he looked crestfallen and just as suddenly walked away, leaving me on my own.

I loved everything! Thank you, Bogi! I am not likely to forget this wonderful experience. Two people, separated by thousands of miles (more than 6000, I believe) between them, but united in friendship and a common passion- this is truly heartwarming.

It may be a month early for Thanksgiving but let not this day pass without celebrate all the wonderful people who have opened their world to me. Thank you for being my friends. 🙂

(Picture drawn by Bogi and colored by me) 


From, March 17, 2010

I’d like to make myself believe that Planet Earth turns slowly.”~ Fireflies, Owl City

When Alphonse was diagnosed with autism more than 13 years ago, one of the very first things to go was our social life. But no, it didn’t happen overnight. Slowly, my husband and I found ourselves walking this one-way street where autism consumed our every waking moment, and before we knew it, we had left friends and family by the wayside. We lost friends because there simply wasn’t enough time—we focused on “saving” Alphonse and nothing else. And yet, others we lost because they chose not to have anything to do with us. The diagnosis, with its attending complications, was simply too much for them.

It got worse when Alphonse started having behavioral problems. Manifesting as aggression and self-injury, these behaviors isolated us from the world. We could not leave him alone; we were all he had. Even relatives stayed away, hiding their children when Alphonse was in sight. For more than five years, we looked for help where and when we could find it. We tried everything we could, yet nothing worked. Except for my closest family, few really understood what we were going through. We felt abandoned and alone. And so, we learned to become a self-sustaining unit of four.

In recent years, however, the sun has finally found its way to our little spot in this world, and Alphonse has, for the most part, been agreeable and steady and calm. Even his outbursts have lost their angry hostility and violent desperation. And although he remains excitable and emotionally fragile, we are grateful that our angry child has evolved into a generally happy young man.

Kittymama and A with Pisay 85 friends

The question that comes to mind now is: What next? After all these years of burrowing underground, staying hidden and safe, and operating under everyone’s radar, it’s not easy giving ourselves permission to even ponder on the possibility of a social life. Just the very thought scares me to death.

Yet, just this last week, my husband and I took the first tentative steps to reconciling with the outside world. I don’t know about my husband but just preparing for it was hard for me. I had to work on the smile to hide my fear. I had to muster the courage to feel less conscious and less wary of people. I fought with myself constantly on our joint decision to make this leap—were we too hasty? Did we really even need to? I tried to talk myself out of going many times.

Kittymama with some MCS friends (photo by Ms. Grace Gonzales-Tanchanco)

In the end, my fears were unjustified. The world opened its arms to me and I felt kinship and friendship where I least expected it. In the comfort of people I had known since I was a child, it didn’t matter who I was today and what I have made of myself. There was no scrutiny, no judgments. The long road I took led to only one place, where the thing that mattered most was that I was there. Just that.

And for me, that was enough. My faith in friendship was restored.

News on the Sylvanian (Families) Front

One of the best things about having friends is that you get first dibs on any news related to your shared interest.  Take my Sylvanian Families friends J, Kit, and Harriet. These three are my lifelines in the local SF world, as I am, hopefully, to theirs. As soon as any of us gets news of arrivals in the city (via confirmed visual sightings or through local contacts in the SF sales world), the text brigade is activated instantaneously and a flurry of messages gets passed among ourselves. Often, they take it a step further by posting pictures and prices, as Kit did here, and as J (aka moodswings) did here.

Last week was a particulary busy week as far as SF fans were concerned. We could not believe the sudden downpour of arrivals in toy shops all over the city. We had been praying fervently for new items and when they finally came, we were all beside ourselves with joy and excitement, and yes, even the accompanying frustration of not having bottomless pockets. With Kit’s and J’s guides, however, we were able to make our individual lists for our budgets and will hopefully be able to stick to them without getting ourselves into debt. (Crossing my fingers!)

I do have some new items which I have not posted yet. Early last month, I received a package from London’s Sylvanian Shop courtesy of my friend Tanja. I was so pleased to receive the Delightful Doughnut Set and a Home Interior Lights Set.  I will add them to the courtyard restaurant, a sweet addition to the various fares offered by the Chocolate Rabbit Family. Thank you so much, dear Tanja, for this lovely gift!

Later in the month, another package came in the mail, this time a late anniversary gift (another anniversary!!!) from my husband. It was the cake shop I’ve been watching at eBay but which A got much, much cheaper from another site. He also threw in the cake display stand for good measure.

I am most happy with these gifts because the Keats, my favorite Sylvanian family, are bakers. (See their family description below.) My husband got me the baker and patisserie maid outfits last Christmas, and together, they complete the set. Happy, happy!!!

Father, Rossetti Longfellow Keats, his delicate puff pastry is a special treat. The Pastry Chef extraordinaire, he fills the kitchen with panache and flair. They say he’s a poet with flour and yeast, because those chocolate dainties are a feast. Mother, Bronte Keats runs the Patisserie like clockwork, hard graft she’s never known to shirk! Efficient she is in every way, she even has time to chat and play. To all her customers she is a friend, to all their whims she does attend.

Brother, T S Eliot Keats, a name no one beats. The longest name of all, a real mouthful to recall. So Bronte has shortened it a lot, from Tennyson Swift to TS Eliot. Sister, Shelley Keats, the apple of her father’s eye, works with him and makes him sigh. Her artistic flair with just plain dough, can turn a cake into a rich Gateau, and a plum-duffing into a princely plum pudding.

Cake shop with the costumes

I did break my Kittybank to buy some items just to get the new Sylvanian Families calendar over at Toytown Eastwood. Okay, okay, unscrew is more like it, as my Kittybank is actually a candy jar, heehee. At the time of my purchase, there weren’t new items available yet so I settled for doubles of items I already had. I wish I waited a little, though; I would have still made it in time for the new arrivals. *Toinks.* Another lesson learned.

Sylvanian Families Calendar available only at Toytown Eastwood

Still, you’d think that with all the toys I still haven’t opened, I would no longer be drooling over new arrivals. And as much as I want to say that I am a model for a smart shopper, the truth is, when it comes to SFs, I am most definitely not. This time, however, I think I did my husband proud by not succumbing to temptation easily. (Also, I think he rather enjoyed not being nagged to come with me to the toy store.) 

How did I comfort myself in this period of self-restraint, you ask? Well,  I made a picture list, printed it out, and used it to calm myself down when my addicted nerves craved for more. Looking at pictures helped a lot; I simply relied on my imagination to do the rest. 🙂

Besides, behaving has its rewards, as I soon found out. Not long after, A got me some of the items in my list. Not all, he said, because the most expensive items would have to wait for a sale, but the ones he could afford to buy, he got them for me. More happy, happy!

Racoon Family, Dormouse twins, Buttermilk Rabbit twins

Stefania plays piano, Mama Diana and ref, Father Aaron and Marco and the vegetable garden

Wedding car, high chair (one of two kinds)

I’m trying to squeeze in time during the day to play with all my toys. It’s my biggest indulgence- to find some quiet time for me- away from the boys and all the chores- and spend an hour or two with my Sylvanians. It’s not everyday I get this time, but when I do, it is a real gift.

Still, while having my ME time is a real joy, I realize that in my life, this is made possible only by friendship, sacrifice, and love. To Tanja, J, Kit, and Harriet, my deepest thanks for your friendship. And to A, who after 28 years is still my bestest friend in the whole wide world, what can I say except “I love you”?

New Sylvanian Friend

Since I started collecting Sylvanian Families last September, I haven’t really had many opportunities to meet SF collectors in the country. Perhaps SF collectors in this country are a rare breed (this reminds me of a post I read at a local action figure forum: “Gusto niyo ng walang kaagaw na line? …Sylvanian Families) and if they are not, then maybe they don’t like advertising themselves as such, not unlike, say,  Transformers collectors who come in manic droves at events and sales.

As such, when I do meet one, like in the case of my good friend J of My Sylvanian Collections, it’s always a cause for celebration. (I feel like a child anticipating a playdate.) And even if the chances of bumping into a Sylvanian Families collector may be quite small,  I think that when fate decides that your heart is open to welcome new people again, it finds a way to let you know just that.

A few months ago I came across two items on eBay Philippines that were still posted but already reserved to a Ms. Harriet J. That was the first time our paths ever crossed.  Because she won that auction, she was oblivious to my existence until early January when she found her way to my blog. Since I invited her to join our little band of SF sisters, she and I have also started corresponding on the Net and sending occasional text messages.

Alex, A and I were in Shangri-La Plaza last Thursday evening when I received an unexpected message on my phone. It was Harriet, sharing her news of the latest mall updates. A and I were hoping to catch the last few days of a sale to get Alex a dress shirt and  formal pants for the prom. While Alex was doing a jig in the dressing room and entertaining the sales ladies, A was browsing the racks for a dress shirt and I was checking out the pants section.  As it turned out, by a happy coincidence, after a few sent messages, I found out that Harriet was in Shangri-La too. Voila, what started out as prom clothes shopping ended up as a brief Sylvanian Families collectors’ meet.

Kittymama and Harriet

You know how you feel when you meet someone and the connection is instantly there? I think that is how I felt when I met J and Harriet for the first time. When you are at ease, you can’t stop talking; that’s how easy it was making friends with my SF sisters J and Harriet.

I have a few pictures from this totally unplanned meet-up (yes, Kittymama is always prepared for a Kodak moment or two). Harriet is a lovely young mother of two daughters who share her love for Sylvanian Families. I like that she’s starting them young. 🙂 Our SF club is slowly growing. Better yet, we’re building it one friendship at a time.


P.S. Thank you, Harriet, for the heads up on the new releases. Kittymama  is now playing with her Courtyard Restaurant and her houses are now all equipped with lights! 🙂

If Friends Were Flowers

Kittymama and J (aka Moodswings) show off their SF!

Just recently, I made the acquaintance of a young woman who shares my interest in Sylvanian Families. It started with a message left on my blog, then e-mail correspondence, then SMS and Facebook (!), and finally, with a meeting just a few days ago.

It always surprises me how friendships develop when and where you least expect it. I’ve been quite lucky in this account. My interests, be it Hello Kitty, or Sylvanian Families, or even just in writing, have led me to discover people I would not have otherwise met in my life. In the process, I have grown from the experience of meeting them, of sharing a part of their life, and of savoring the collective experiences that define a relationship.

J is half my age and yet, we have a lot of things in common. Though we prefer to talk shop — Sylvanian shop, that is, haha — I’ve found that many of her interests also closely hew to mine. She collects SF, she likes arts and crafts, and she blogs! (Visit her at My Sylvanian Collections.) Best of all, I like that she shares her passion for SF with her mom. (Oh, what I would give to have Alex play with me and not set my critters on suicidal missions! Or just to have Alphonse show a smidgen of interest in imaginative play without ripping and chewing on Squirrel Father’s tail.)

So, to J, my new friend and younger sister, thank you for the friendship. I look forward to meeting and making friends with your mom too.

“If friends were flowers, I’d pick you.”