Traffic Conflict

“Traffic is only one of the side effects of growth.” ~ Roy Barnes


Most people say that if you can drive in Manila, then you can drive anywhere in the world. The traffic system in the city has become notorious, especially in the recent months, when the long hours on the road became the subject of memes, sarcastic tweets, and random rants of commuters and drivers alike. 

Yes, manila traffic is horrible. It gets me cranky and tired, and it takes away precious time I could have spent at work or with family. So what’s a working mom to do? Here’s my survival plan to still be productive while stuck in a standstill:

Listen to Audiobooks.

I’m currently subscribed to Blinkist, an app which summarizes books and captures the highlights in blinks or mini-chapters. Wide range of topics include business, time management, relationships, even parenting tips. This way, you can still enjoy the take away messages in just minutes. Plus factor is their audiobook version, so you can plug this in and listen to a “storyteller” read through the blinks while navigating traffic. 

Clean the Clutter.

There’s always some old receipt or expired item left in the car. So what better way to practice konmari than by letting go of these articles during a traffic stop? Always bring a handy bag or plastic you can use to store these items, then throw it all away once you reach your destination. Cleaning the car is also clearing your mind.

Call the Clients. 

This I will only advise using hands-free, speakerphone calls. I usually sneak in follow-up calls to clients, suppliers or office assistants for quick reminders on tasks to do. Sometimes I also call home to check on my daughter or my husband, who I was not able to bond with more as I leave earlier to go to the office. Quick calls lessen the checklist, and still make up for productive time while on the road. Don’t do this while in moving traffic. 

Retouch the Makeup.

Quick dab of lipstick or powder, and we’re good to go. When I have more time, I keep tweezers also in the car so I can clean up my brows as well. 

Run through the Day.

When there’s nothing to do, the mind can easily wander aimlessly to all directions. I usually use this time to think about tasks I have to do for the day, or even, for the week. This can even include grocery lists, personal errand reminders, or people I have to call back. The mental checklist helps me remember what I have to do both at home and the office, so that I can hit the ground running already as soon as I get to my destination. 

Pray the Rosary.

It only takes about 15 minutes, and you can pray for a miracle to power through the traffic. Otherwise, you can also use the quiet time to meditate and clear your mind.

There are many other ways to use the traffic time wisely. What matters is that we stay patient and stay positive, and that we can rise above the seemingly useless situation to still be productive, working moms. 

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Travel Bugs

“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.” ~ Kate Douglas Wiggin

I’m on my last leg from an assignment in Eastern Europe to attend and assist delegates in a conference. Before that, I came from another weeklong midyear conference, out of town, from which I was the lead organizer for 500 delegates. Two weeks away from my family to fulfill my duties for work. 

It’s been difficult both physically and emotionally to be away for so long. Before when I was single, I would relish the thought of traveling to new places. I’ve always wanted to visit different destinations since I was a little girl, and my work has given me opportunities to see beautiful places in my country and around the world. Travel has always been a passion and a blessing. 

But having my husband and my daughter changed my priorities. If I can limit my trips now, I would gladly take that option. Otherwise, a lot of planning and preparation ensues. As a working mom, I not only have to ensure that every detail of the trip itinerary is complete, but also stock up on supplies for the household and endorse childcare to my family.

Here are some tips when a working mom goes away on a trip:

1. Make a Laundry List.

It helps to list down your daily routine so you can go it over with your husband, yaya or the Lolo/Lola on the things needed to be done and prepared everyday. This is what you do when your child wakes up, eats breakfast at this time, goes to her nap, playtime and bedtime routine. Schedules can be pinned to the ref or anywhere that can be easily seen, so the child’s routine will not be disrupted even while you’re away. 

At work, make sure to sit down with your superior to let him know of your trip details and scheduled return to work. Update him with your tasks and things to be settled so there are no loose ends before you leave.

2. Accomplish in Advance.

Prepping is very vital prior to your trip. Plan the menu and the meal plan for the week. If you can, cook the food the weekend prior and assign days for the week for each viand. Stock up on groceries (with a little extra for emergencies). Leave some money with someone you trust in case of an emergency purchase. List down names and contacts of your pediatrician, teacher and nearby baranggay/ police station.

Meetings can be set prior to your trip so you can settle concerns with customers without worries. Submit all deliverables in advance and assure clients that they can still contact your assistant or reliever while you’re out. 

3. Go online. 

You don’t have to spend so much to call and check up on home. While away, I use different tools to keep in touch: Viber, Skype, FB messenger. Before I left home, I tested all the apps on my device and my husband’s and brother’s to make sure they’re working. We aligned time zones too so we know which is the best time to call each other. Now I’m learning to use WorldSim too so I can call home and work for a minimal rate. 

In the office, I’ve turned also my auto-reply with my email address (not mobile phone) so customers and suppliers can still reach me for urgent matters. 

I am grateful for the support system I have right now–my spouse and my parents, along with yayas and household help–that have allowed me to take on trip-related responsibilities while they take care of the home front. I’m fortunate as well to have workmates who are willing to carry some workload while I’m gone. Without them, the delicate work-life-travel balance will not be possible. So, while it’s expensive, I make sure to buy everyone little tokens of appreciation from my trip. Goodwill always goes a long way.

And while you’re at it, enjoy the trip! Let go of the guilt and take in the scenery. Each adventure truly changes you, and you leave with new life lessons.

Thankful and excited to finally go home! 

Eat, Pray, Love in Pangasinan

“It’s a road trip! It’s about adventure! . . . It’s not like we have somewhere to go.” ― John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

Finally found the perfect day-trip getaway: Visit Manaoag and have a food trip in Pangasinan! It’s been a while since I’ve visited Manaoag and heard Mass there. Milo has not been there yet. And I’ve been craving for good ol’ Bangus lately. Problem Solved!

Rented a van for 8 hours at 8500++ (I already knew we were going to exceed this time frame), and invited the whole gang along. Mom prepared boiled eggs and sweet bananas, while Milo stocked up on drinks for us. At 4 am, we were ready to go.

Picked up Mama (Milo’s mom) at Marilao where she also brought fresh-from-the-oven Pan de Sal. After an early Silog breakfast at a nearby 24hour Jollibee, we were finally on our way to the North.

Going to Pangasinan is easier today, thanks to the connecting expressways. No need to pass by the other towns with the tricyles and trucks on the road. Just take NLEX to Dau, SCTEX, then TPLEX to Urdaneta – dulo to dulo – and you’re now in Pangasinan! That took about three hours from Manila.

At Manaoag, there are early morning masses at 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10am. We were already there at 9am, but since it was a bit crowded in the parking area, we waited for the 10am mass instead. We took the time to take pictures first and take Sofia on a walk. The weather was quite cool and the mass was very solemn, so we were able to pray and offer our intentions. I told Milo that since it was his first time, he gets to pray for his three wishes 🙂 Our Lady of Manaoag has a devout following, as our Lady has been known to grant wishes from the faithful who visit and pray to her.

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We almost didnt catch the priest who blessed the crowd with holy water, so we followed him outside where there is a blessing area, near the tank of holy water. He said a prayer for Sofie and our family, and my heart was glad. Everyone offered candles also and said our prayers before heading out.

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We passed by a lot of food vendors on our way to Dagupan and Calasiao. Road trips would not be complete without the food trip on the way, so we stuffed ourselves with native tupig, sweet grilled kakanin, and some banana chips on our way to lunch.

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Our favorite restaurant in Dagupan is Dagupeña, famous for their best-tasting Bangus! We ordered their Pakbet, Binagoongan Pata and Sabaw na Halaan which were bestsellers too. The restaurant can be quite crowded during lunchtime, so best to come early or call for reservations.

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Before heading home, we dropped by Calasiao for their famous puto. There’s a street around the corner near the plaza where all the puto vendors are. A kilo costs about 80pesos only! We “hoarded” a bit for Lola and Tatay, and before going back to the road.

It was a long day, we spent about 15 hours on the trip. But everything was worth it, because we spent the day with family.

 

 

Art in Island Family

“I think togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life.” ~ Barbara Bush

Christmas season starts as early as November in our family, and the traditions follow suit. This includes the house decorations, christmas carols, and the weekend family trips.

My brother organized one trip this weekend, and invited everyone in the family to join. My brother, who rarely organizes, and my father, who rarely joins are both ready to go! I reorganized our Sunday plans and agreed to join the whole gang for a picture taking morning at Art in Island.

The whole venue in Cubao was filled with 3d art installations, where you can be creative in your poses and see the 3d effects in your pictures. Entrance is at Php 500, and it will be better if you come early to avoid the queues at the photo installations. This way you can also have as many takes and poses as you want. (More info on Art in Island here).

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Everyone was game enough to pose and have fun with each other. Hope we can have more weekends like this, bonding as a complete family, Christmas season or not.

Home and Away

“Move to a new country and you quickly see that visiting a place as a tourist, and actually moving there for good, are two very different things.” – Tahir Shah

An old friend just recently called up to say that he’s moving to New Zealand, and bringing along his family with him. He’s not alone, and this is not the first time. He’s following the footsteps of 4 other colleagues who seem to share the vision of a “greener” pasture abroad, literally and figuratively.

While catching up with an old friend, she mentioned choosing Australia to raise her kids instead of here in Manila. And while she notes that there are conveniences of community and family here in her hometown, the benefits of living abroad supported by the government (such as free education, hospitalization charges, etc) outweighs her own nostalgia. home and abroad

I have always weighed this choice myself. My husband and I have also discussed this multiple times, and we have considered the options and what-ifs. His family is exposed to the OFW scenario more than my family, as my FIL is a practicing physician in the US and only comes home once a year for the holidays.

While the hubby is open to the idea, I have yet to open my heart to the possibility. I love to travel and explore new places. But moving my life, moving with children abroad is totally different. I heavily rely on my family ties to raise my kid while I am working. I do not have currently the freedom to strictly choose my weekdays only for work–at times, we are called to duty even on weekends. I do not have the luxury of time yet to go home early, as my work demands attention at late hours especially when there are special events. And while the option is there to look for a more “regular” desk job, my family knows that this is best job for me, in terms of long-term health benefits and a more understanding work pace.

Countless times, relatives and friends have tempted us to work abroad. Promises of higher pay and less workload, and more work opportunities would always beckon. But for me, its not always about the money. I want my children to grow up with their grandparents, because the wisdom that they can impart does not have a price tag. I want our parents to enjoy their grandchildren, for time is all they have right now. I want my children to enjoy their Pinoy childhood and a school with Pinoy values. I want us to enjoy all the ups and downs of Manila, because this is where we grew up, and right now, this is home. Yes, I’m traditional and conventional and sentimental that way.

But then, that’s just me. Who knows what will happen in the future. All I know is, as long as we’re all together (for now), we can find happiness and fulfillment anywhere we may be.

The Trouble with Long Weekends

By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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During my single days, I would always get excited about an upcoming long weekend. Finally, more time to catch up on my books or my favorite series. More time to go out with friends. And my favorite: more time to sleep!

But with parents, the long weekend comes double-edged. I only realize now that long weekends connote less rest and me-time for working moms, but this also means planning more activities for the kids not to get bored, and probably planning also for a mall or out-of-town trip for the surprise family bonding. Each choice would be fun for the kids, and slightly more costly for the parent planning.

Which brings me to my dilemma today: the APEC will host its activities next week, which means extra 3-days without work and a total of 5-day weekend with the family. Yay! or Nay?

The husband and I have been going back and forth on what to do for APEC vacation: Should we go south… Tagaytay maybe? Too much traffic, and it seems like everyone has the same idea. Should we go north? There’s a bit of a shortage in nearby tourist sports there; the nearest one is 4 hours away! Should we just go to a hotel and have a staycation? Ugh, hotel again?!?! I don’t think so. Should we go the mall? The baby will not do well with the crowds doing their christmas shopping either.

Whatever we choose, there’s always a pro and a con. And of course, the budget has to be considered. We’ll see whatever crops up in the next few days. But we must finalize plans and make the reservations soon! Long weekend is coming up!