I’m NOT going to The Hive

They’ve already started to arrive: the 250 bloggers who will be part of The Hive, a European blogging conference being held in Berlin this weekend. I was at The Hive last year, and I loved it.

This year’s Hive is bigger and better, with a fantastic lineup of speakers and workshops, sponsors like Etsy, Airbnb, Canon and Pantone and more, and a vibrant community of attendees who are self-organizing their own meetups, dinners, trips and tours outside the conference.

The Hive Berlin welcome posters

All of which makes me heartbroken that I’m going to miss it.

[Read more…]

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Wedding ring blues

Twice a week, Marlon attends a krav maga class at the International School of Amsterdam in Amstelveen. Last Monday night, he stored his duffel bag in his friend Joris’s car while the class worked out in the parking lot, in full view of the cars. For the last ten minutes of the class, the instructor took them all back inside for one last exercise.

In those ten minutes, thieves smashed the window of Joris’s car, reached in and grabbed Marlon’s duffel bag. They took his office laptop, office and personal phones (an iPhone and Blackberry), house keys and bike keys, wallet with credit cards, ATM card, driver’s license and €50 in cash, passport and Dutch residence card, his office clothes including a leather jacket and his favorite leather Timberland shoes…

And his wedding ring.

Marlon called me from Joris’s phone after the theft and asked me to help get his cards blocked while he went to the police station to make a report (no transactions or money taken, thank God). Then he turned up at our doorstep, with nothing but the sweaty gym clothes on his back.

Wearing the saddest, most heartbreaking face I’ve ever seen, he said nothing and simply held up his bare finger where his ring had been. I pulled him inside, hugged him and cried. Knowing how crushed he was, I whispered: “Don’t worry, you’re still married to me.”

Since then, friends have pointed out that he was lucky that nobody was hurt and I agree. I suppose in the overall scale of loss, having these essentials stolen is just a giant pain. Marlon took the last day and a half off to start replacing the items that were lost. The office laptop and phone were the easiest to replace, being reissued within a day; the Dutch residence card and Philippine passport will take anywhere from 4 to 9 long weeks. Goodbye business trips (and tag-along weekends) to Berlin, Paris and Marbella.

The ring… not so easy to replace. Our wedding rings were simple and inexpensive, and I can probably get the same ring from the same shop when we fly home to Manila for Christmas. But wedding rings are never just about the ring, are they?

He’s thinking about getting a tattoo on his ring finger now, so he can never lose it. I loved the idea and was thrilled at the idea of getting a matching one for myself. Then I remembered: I’m pregnant! No tattoos! Oops.

Friends suggested we make calls to pawnshops; thankfully in the Amsterdam area, that list is mercifully short. (If someone suggested that I call all the pawnshops in Manila, I would say it would be easier to fall on a sword.) Others suggested we keep an eye on Marktplaats (the Dutch eBay)  in case it turns up there.

The Dutch policewoman who prepared his police report emailed him (police with email! So first world!) had the best suggestion of all. “When you get a new ring, just celebrate your marriage again and throw a big party!” Smart and sweet, so unlike police in my corner of the world. But hey, that sounds like a perfect fifth wedding anniversary.

Have you ever lost anything as precious, or had it stolen? How did you deal with it and did you ever get it back?

Ring photo taken on our wedding day by Mango Red.

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Number one fan

Everyone needs a number one fan.

The Ateneo College Glee Club already had its own when I joined it as a freshman in 1999. His name was Dr. Fernando Hofileña, M.D. To us, and the generations of Glee Club members who knew him, he was simply Doc Hof.

Doc was a tenor in the Glee Club during the 1950s, when it was still an all-male choir. He stayed on to become its tireless cheerleader, mentor, guide, morale booster and its number one fan.

You couldn’t be in the Glee Club and not know him. Your identity as a card-carrying member of the Glee Club was not valid until you had seen him strolling in his stately pace with his trusty umbrella along Katipunan; until you’d been stopped by him in the hall and held by the arm for a long chat (often, just as you were dashing to class or to rehearsal); until you had heard him speak in superlatives of the group you belonged to.

Everyone has their favorite Doc Hof story. Mine is the time when, after a particularly disastrous rehearsal, our conductor launched into a cutting sermon that left our confidence in shreds (as conductors will often do).

At the end of Sir Joel’s tirade, Doc walked into the rehearsal room beaming, bringing his hands together in slow, emphatic applause. “Incandescent!” he declared beatifically.

Well, nobody could stay angry or tired after that.

My other favorite Doc Hof story is how he, as an octogenarian, was hit by a truck while walking home in Loyola Heights. We were all horrified when we heard. Oh, no, not to worry—he was okay, he said. He simply got up, dusted himself off and walked home. After getting hit by a truck. True story.

Doc Hof’s unconditional love and support was constant even in the toughest times—when we sounded anything but incandescent. I was president during a difficult time in the Glee Club: we changed conductors twice in one year; we were on our own after a dramatic break from our alumni members; the makeup of the group shifted suddenly towards young, inexperienced singers. After our hard-earned triumphs in Europe, listeners expected a seasoned, winning sound that the “new” Glee Club simply didn’t have and couldn’t rush no matter how bad we wanted to.

During that transitional period, I heard many things from many people—but not a single thing from Doc. Making difficult decisions for the group was nerve-wracking and we officers could never be sure we were doing the right thing. In those times, Doc Hof’s quiet kindness was a gift. His constant presence was reassuring. His unshakeable faith in us, that we would endure and flourish, was a soothing balm. He simply knew that we would make it, even if I wasn’t sure we would.

Doc was so in love with the Glee Club, it was all he ever talked to us about. He never said much about himself. We were all stunned to learn about his achievements when he was awarded the Lux-In-Domino Award by Ateneo in 2008.

Here was a man who, when World War II broke out, stopped med school to return to his province of Negros to help his father, then the Mayor of the town of Silay. After fleeing with his family and townspeople to the mountains, he joined the Resistance against the Japanese and became acting Mayor at the age of 22.

After the war, he became a Fulbright scholar and studied pediatrics and child psychiatry in New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He came home to become the pediatrician and clinic head for the very first school for special education in the Philippines—now the Cupertino Center for Special Children in Loyola Grand Villas. I could go on and on, but you can read more about Doc’s remarkable life here.

He loved music, theater, debate. If you had ever talked to him, you would realize how much he exemplified a bygone era—one where people were kinder, greater, more genteel, more noble. Now that Doc is gone, I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone whom I could accurately describe as genteel or noble. Now I feel like his era has passed with his passing.

Everyone needs a number one fan. That a man as accomplished and remarkable as Doc Hof could be humble enough to be ours—so unabashedly, so unconditionally—was a gift beyond our deserving.

Doc was laid to his eternal rest today. Though it was always an honor and a pleasure to sing for him, I believe that we were only the opening act to what awaits him. I can only imagine what beautiful music must have been prepared to welcome him. I can only imagine his face when he hears it.

Dear Doc, rest well and enjoy the music. We love you and we will miss you.

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iSad

I was a latecomer to the Apple party. It was only three years ago, when I had first moved to Singapore and was looking for a job. I was so frustrated with how slow my old laptop took to start up. The afternoon when it took over an hour and a half reduced me to tears. 
I ordered a refurbished Macbook Pro that same evening. All it took to get over the cost hurdle was the prospect of writing—more than just, my livelihood but my expression—becoming “fun, portable, inspiring and pleasurable” once again. It did. It still is.
I then became part of an industry that depended on Final Cut Pro. It was a constant in my workaday world. Before I moved to Amsterdam, I became a certified Apple Final Cut Pro user. Only last month, I did my first-ever editing job from home, all by myself. 
Thank you, Steve Jobs. 

How you lived your life changed not only how I feel about technology or listen to music. It changed how I do my work, earn my living and express myself.

In fulfilling your possibilities, you gave us new ones.

The world will miss you.

Rest in peace.

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Take a bow

While cleaning the living room this morning, I was aghast to find that the tulips Marlon gave me just the other night had… er, taken their final bow.

Dying swan ang drama. Bow.

As in salampak! This puts the “over!” in overnight. This has never happened to me, not even in Singapore.

Ganun ba kainit kahapon? It’s been fiercely sunny the last couple of days, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been warm. By some weird winter logic, sunny cloudless days actually have lower temperatures of -2 to 3℃ while cloudy gray days are warmer at about 6 to 9℃. And yes, my tropical friends, 9℃ is warm. Masaya na ako doon.

Time to hie off to the bloemenshop for some new tulips…

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