What it’s like Growing up with Five Older Sisters

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My main girls with our sis-in-law & dear Mama. Family portrait, 2011
A quote from Linda Sunshine that goes: “... a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time...” pretty much sums up what I feel toward my sisters… all five of them. My relationship with them has gone through countless turns over the course of our adulthood, sometimes bad, mostly good. Make no mistake though, my sisters and I aren't anything like  the March girls {from Little Women} or the Bennett sisters {from Pride and Prejudice}. I’d like to think our relationship has more subtle dynamics than that and while I find some of these fictional relationships quite endearing, I don’t want to idealize and glorified the concept of having one a little too much because having a sister isn’t always like the ones we read from the novels or watch from the movies. Of course my sisters are amazing and I love them a great deal. Cliché as it may sounds, they are my closest sounding boards and forever allies. But, just like any relationship in general, ours is something that doesn't automatically means rainbows and sunshine and that's alright. Having a sister, let alone five, has positive and less appealing sides but both have truly impacted my sometimes crazy yet beautiful life. Here’s how:
  • Growing up, I have mini-moms to answer to. By the time I started grade school, four of my sisters already reached their teenage years, one, a preteen. With our parents both working abroad, left under the care of our grandma, my sisters took the role of being in charge by heart and made sure each one of us were 'contributing’ inside the house. They wasted no time and exercised their right as the older siblings in full extent and never failed to tell the younger ones what to do. That's how powerful birth order was {and still is} at the Ordillo household. I admit my 7-year-old self hated how things were but the bossing around done me some good. In turn, my parents not being around during those times wasn't really a big deal to me and not once did I ever feel I lack any parental guidance because a.) our grandma, God bless her soul, had always been there and b.) because I felt like my sisters, though not intentional, I’m sure, buffered me against that kind of void. In hindsight, I turned out quite fine and I feel mighty fortunate for what they did.
  • I was a recipient of hand-me-downs. Even as a kid, I already had a better understanding of how extremely tight money was when we were growing up and so, I kind of embraced the hand-me-down living we had for a brief while. It was never an issue for me to always be on the receiving end of already outgrown or used clothing from my older siblings. Heck, I even wore some of my older brothers’ Super Mario/Garfield shirts at some point and thought it was hot stuff. I just can't imagine not using such things when it was perfectly wearable. I relish the idea that I got to be part of a hand-me-down chain, one that is infinite, with a reward that goes beyond the value of the item itself. To this day, my sisters and I still share and pass down used items to one another. This, in my opinion, encourages a continuing friendship and strengthened the bond between us.
  • By default, my sisters gave me a perspective check on all-things-life. They offer fashion, hair, make-up, money and work advice, and possibly all that’s in between {usually unsolicited} because they truly think it’s their duty as the 'Ate' {Filipino word for 'big' sister} to do so. Even my best girlfriends will select their words cautiously when weighing up or putting forward an opinion but not my sisters. Their no-holds-barred, no-sugar-coating insights have the tendency to make me feel like an insecure teen all over again. I could roll my eyes, throw a diva-hand-motion, slam the door or walk out on them as a defense but in my quiet moment, when their honesty would somehow make sense, it'll put me in my place at warp speed. And just like any other youngest kids out there, I sincerely hate it when my sisters are right. This makes me dread the day I’ll bring home a guy. Opinions will come in like tidal waves for sure. Like seriously.
  • They have a powerful connection to my younger self. My sisters will heartily fall back into old patterns of behavior any  give opportunity to bring up embarrassing stories about me that I wish would just remained in the past, over a family meal. They would vividly recall past incidents and mistakes even as far back as pre-elementary, to retell again and again solely for amusement purposes. Silly stories that I know aren’t just restricted to family meals and gatherings but also to my future kids as well, telling them what I was really like when I was little, or how hilarious my 5-year-old self singing a B.J. Thomas song. A freakin' B.J. Thomas song?! Also, they will always be the ones who will correct and more often than not, question your account of these stories. Again, birth order. After all, they’re older and they’re always right... so they claimed.
  • They always come in handy. At least mine are. When worse case comes to worst and no close friends would stand up for me, I always have my sisters to turn to. Ever since I had an awareness of what life is about, they have always been my steady support system whom I know I cannot function without. When I need to get something off of my chest, they have a pair of listening ears to offer. When I was too awkward to enroll myself in college, they went with me to procure the deed. When I needed a ride to the terminal at five in the morning, though not exactly thrilled, they still gave me one anyway. When I was clueless on what to do with myself for prom in ’01, my sisters came through for me. There are times when we would not want to breathe in each other’s directions, yet I know they won't turn me away had I ask them to help me hide a body. Just trying to make a point here! ^^

If I ever need to get in touch with reality, they will gladly put me in place faster than a bullet, even if it means splashing cold water in my face. Literally. If that’s not the most awesomely overwhelming thing, {both in a positive and negative way}, I don’t know what is.

Sometimes Teaching, Mostly Learning

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Some of my 2nd graders, Sports Fest 2014
Today, I get to play Ten Twenty with some of my students after class and what a heartening moment that was for me! My fondness for kids dates back even before I started teaching. While I hold in the highest regard for old-aged people for their wisdom, I love kids simply for their innocence and genuineness toward things in life. Some kids have this amusing way of making me feel at ease just by being around them. I remember tagging along with my bro-in-law (and my sister and nephews in tow) on a visit to his sister’s place all the way to Dau some years ago. There, amidst the conversation among the adults, I found myself completely out of place until my nephew’s nephew named Dave came in and asked if I wanted to see and meet Kiko, their puppyDave even showed me around their backyard and was practically the cheery 6-year-old host I’ve ever met. In an instant, boredom dwindled the moment he started talking to me and that visit became one of the worthwhile trips I’ve ever gone to.

I find it sincerely sweet when one thinks I have a big heart for kids but the truth is, they are the ones who have a big heart for me. Sure, I teach my students things they are expected to learn academically but what I learn from them are just as priceless. My students help me polish my patience and unconsciously encourage me to be my best self. To hear them talk about their dreams, listen to their witty stories and have a laugh makes me appreciate life’s simplicity even more. Yes, they also tend to wear me out on certain occasions but at the same time, they can also be the force that somehow brings me wonderful introspective clarity. In my humble opinion, spending time with them is just positively delightful, hence, the superlative remedy to almost everything, I think.

So, I've Been Lead On By This Guy

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Image Credit: Ahmed Law, touchtalent.com

So, I've been lead on by this guy” my friend informed me without so much as a polite hello.

She seemed fine, nonchalant even but I guess I just know her too well. Even her thick Amazon-like skin, try as she may, cannot conceals her real emotions from me. She’s aching, this I know.

I pulled out a chair, sat down and said, “I’m listening” and off she narrated the excruciating highs and lows of her heartbreak.

There was a sense of connection”, she says. A connection that somehow excites her with a prospect of potential interest and so, she showed some interest back. They started hanging out  together regularly, which led to regular interactions, frequent flirting and constantly calling each other, babe. {I mean, seriously? Babe?! Are we still allowed to use this as a pet name?! Ugh. *shake my head*}

Soon, she started reading into these interactions and overtime, she completely put herself out there, making herself too available for the guy and making him able to come and go as he please. Subsequently, she started feeling confused.

Does he like me or are we just friends?” she asked, still trying to put the pieces together.

The interaction between them kept on where she felt more confused but remained silent, still willing to be there. More interaction followed. It continued until there wasn't any and before my friend even realized it, she got drop off the face of the earth. Just. Like. That.

Ouch.” I thought to myself.

With absolute indifference, she ended her heartrending tale with a dreary “Guess, that’s just that” as she shrugged her shoulders.

I went to bed that evening with lingering thoughts of what had happened to my friend. While I keenly listened to her earlier that day and quite symphatetic to say the least, I unconsciously harbored a slight bitterness in my heart regarding men and concluded that SOME of them are innately self-centered, insecure beings who likes your attention but doesn't really like you and are just merely looking to have a good time in expense of your broken heart.

"Men!" I sighed.

But then, I also thought of my friend and how she, in some way, allowed herself to cling on to these confusing and unhealthy interactions that dragged on until the guy eventually got tired of her. In my limited experience of the matter of the heart, confronting him about their seemingly romantic relationship and where it was heading could have save her from further heartache rather than just letting things happen in fear of “messing things up”. Also, boundaries should've been set. I believe in loving yourself first and as a modern woman, we should be brave enough to control things and take that decisive action when necessary. Someone can only be led on when one continue to follow.

My friend took a shot at something and sadly, it didn't work out. Do I think she’s weak and silly to go after a guy like that? Not at all. I guess that’s how 'love' {or if one could even consider it as one}, is. When it hits you, IT HITS YOU and it can render even the boldest person who cannot  be easily daunted, powerless at some point. I wish that's not the case but there you go.

xo, Anie

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My heroine, Christmas Eve '09
Siblings are forever teammates, your most trusted ally. Someone who would stand up for you when no close friends would” said my late grandma {paraphrase mine} when my 7-year old self complained about having too many sisters and brothers.

We’re 8 by the way. Before me are 5 older sisters and 2 older brothers. Back then, with both parents working abroad, my grandma held us together. Braving the aftermath of Mt. Pinatubo eruption, she was a godly source of strength, courage and love. What with her larger-than-life presence, we managed to pull through the tough times carrying with us life lessons she selflessly passed on not by mere words but through altruistic actions.

We lost her to pneumonia in 2012 and life for us has changed so greatly since. There’s never a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. My heart still aches at the thought that she's really gone. ... that she's missing out on seeing her great grandsons, JR and KC, my nephews,  all grown up or meeting our new little addition, Lori, my niece. But as I look back, I know that every sacrifices she made, steps she took, circumstances she overcame and love she gave were all in the name of family, something that made me value this institution the more.

Happy name day to you, Mameh! Mahal kita!

xo,

Anie.

We're All In This Together

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Twenty-two years ago, I can clearly remember feeling very frightened at the thought that the world was ending.

Are we going to die?” my 6-year old self asked my Pa on the evening Typhoon Diding (international name, Yunya) produced heavy rains that prompted significant flooding at the time the Mount Pinatubo erupted.

No” he replied while he led us, kids, to take refuge in the washing room outside our rented bungalow, just minutes away from Clark Air Base. He then, along with the older members of our family, went to salvage our house from the concrete-like mud that Pinatubo’s ash mixed with Diding’s rain created, nearly collapsing our roof. 

What went about for the next hours and days were an utter struggle. With nowhere to go and with limited finances on hand, we were left with no choice but to stay in Angeles City during this catastrophic incident. Together, we braved numerous large earthquakes caused by the eruption, heavy rainfall, ash fall, crazy mudflow and the smell of sulfur.

Our next door neighbor’s house and ours were the only ones that stood tall and without severe damages in our lahar-covered block that was as quiet as an old ghost town. Divine providence kept us safe and to this day, we are still grateful for our lives that had been miraculously spared and now living it to the best way we can.

Twenty-two years later, another calamity hit our motherland severely, if not greater than what Pinatubo eruption and Typhoon Diding had struck us with. We are absolutely heartbroken for those who were harshly affected by Typhoon Yolanda (known as Haiyan, internationally) in the central parts of the Philippines. We mourn for the countless lives that had been lost. Our thoughts are with those who managed to survive and are now greatly distress by Yolanda’s aftermath. It is our prayer that may you not lose hope and will continue to press on in spite of the devastation this event had brought.



To the Philippine government, Napoles issue be damned. This is the perfect time to be selfless and set whatever personal and/or political motives/intentions you have, aside. For the remaining upright and noble politicians, who, I know in my naïve mind still exists, set an example for those who choose to do otherwise, overcome evil with good and help restore our faith and trust in our government. Stop with the blame game and pointing fingers. There’s no point in magnifying who’s-fault-is-what in these trying times, instead, focus on what can be done.

To those of you who are in Angeles City looking for ways to help, Humphrey Foundation Learning Center is partnering with Clarkview Christian Center and Philippine Air Force Civilian Military Operation to transport relief supplies and assistance for relocated individuals and families from worst hit areas. You can drop your donations of used clothes, canned goods, foods and bottled-water at HFLC or Clarkview Christian Center on Monday. These donations will be shipped to the areas hit hardest by Typhoon Yolanda through Philippine Air Force Civilian Military Operation. Let’s do our part and lend a hand. When it comes to helping, there is no measurement because everything counts.


Eastern Visayas, hang in there! You are not forgotten. Your beauty shall be restored. You will bounce back from this disaster with grace and though gradual, you will thrive again. Just as my beloved Angeles City did, in time, you definitely will. We’re all in this together. God bless. xx

Dear Teens: An Open Letter to Those I Had the Opportunity to Teach As Children

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To the kids who first made me feel like I’m a real teacher (circa '07)… oblivious and inexperienced as I was. Written with genuine care and affection, this one is for all of you. x

Dear Teens,

I would like to take a few moments to scribble down a word for you. Since you are in a crucial stage, in which certain values have to be introduced, I wholly believe it’s but necessary that someone tells you these.

Image Credit: http://batpoopcrazy.com/

You guys, by far, dominate my Facebook and Twitter feeds like super crazy! I look at you in these social medias and take in how time flew by, quite dumbfounded and pretty baffled, to say the least, by the changes the years has brought. Suddenly you kids are teenagers… dramatic, irrational and impulsive. It’s the awkward growth spurt, I get it. Our brain continues to change throughout life and the huge leaps in development takes place during adolescence so, trust me, I totally get it. I was in that stage too. Between you and me, I think I had it worst. While you incessantly express your frustrations via Twitter and put your whole life out on Facebook (I mean, who doesn’t these days?), I was silently questioning my faith on humanity when I was your age. So, I have to give you a pat on the back somehow. Please understand that when I say I get it, I really do. Sarcasm not included. Puberty is kicking in, this I know. It means you are starting to make your way in becoming young adults. Not quite there yet but you’re on your way and as you go through this phase, allow your good ‘ol former teacher {and Ate, first and forever} to leave you with 10 things I know to be true. 

1. You should understand that no matter how tall you have sprouted or how grown-up you dress, you are still in a developmental period. Turn to your parents for guidance. Listen to your church leaders. Pay attention to what your teachers have to say or whoever responsible adults who sincerely cares about you, because you will need all the help you can get in threading this stage and surviving all that teen drama. As Proverbs 11:14 puts it, “… in the multitude of counselors there is safety”.

2. Teens like you process information with the AMYGDALA {an almond-shaped part of the brain, nestled deep in the back} known as the instinctual, EMOTIONAL part of the brain. So, when you try to make a decision, your emotions tends to take over. While you think you’re old enough to run your own life, think again. Your brains are simply not yet equipped to think through things in the same way we adults, do. Until your still-developing PREFRONTAL CORTEX {rational part of your brain} takes control of the Amygdala, accept our genuine offers of help and straight-to-the-point criticism and TAKE. TIME. TO. LISTEN.

3. Don’t ever think parents/guardians only exist to suck all the fun out of life, especially when they won’t let you go on a road trip with some questionable friends. If anything, these people, who so good-naturedly and affectionately raised you, are your biggest cheerleaders in life. Your happiness is their happiness first. They watch your back like no close friends would. You may feel like they’re too strict but what you don’t know is, they only have your best interests at heart. Appreciate them now while you still have the time because life is too short for you to take them for granted.

4. Scrap the idea of peer pressure you have in mind. According to some neuroscientists and psychologists {feel free to Google this info I’m about to break to you all}, teens like you, don’t feel peer pressure, you feel PEER PLEASURE! Peer approval has been shown to be highly rewarding to your teen brains. The pleasure centers of your brain are most active when you get validation from someone your own age. But, ditch that burst of feel-good chemicals, I say! Peer pressure is something I easily dodged in my teens because I have that feeling of Invictus-ability {see W.E. Henley’s poem}, haha! Whatever that means. I don't even know how peer pressure didn't get the best of me but my words to you, remember the noble things you’ve learned from your parents/guardians/teachers/other mentors as a child, stand by it and be comfortable with your choices.

5. During puberty, hormonal changes occur and they magnify your emotions. Research says, your Amygdala gangs up with all these kinds of hormones, pumping them through your puberty-ravaged bodies, leaving you feeling all sorts of things including moodiness and unpredictability. So, when you think you’re in love with the boy {or girl} whom you have a crush on for the longest of time… chances are, you’re really not. Don't complicate things way too much. I would say 99% that it's not real love but just infatuation. You’re just being over taken with strong feelings because of your hormones and you probably don’t have a concrete idea about the difference between that and the real thing yet. 

6. Take it easy on the Social Media. There is a fine line between self-expression and over-sharing. I am a huge social media enthusiast myself. I believe it’s a great tool for sharing, communicating and keeping in touch, except when it’s misused, it can create a lot of damage. Be sure to protect your privacy, be cautious on what you post and always think twice. Social media mistakes are hard to undo. Unfortunately, Papa and Mama can’t help you out when that happens. There’s way more trouble online as it is in real life and they’re just waiting for you if you’re careless. Express yourself, sure. Have fun, no problem… but be careful out there. Moderation is the key!

7.Girls, dressing modestly is not an outdated cultural standard, especially if you’re a Filipino. The profit-driven media’s fixation on bodies tell us otherwise and when you think of modesty in terms of being “restrictive” you need to consider the personal rewards of it — self-respect and honor. Take it from Pope Pius XII, he said: The more elegant you will be, and the more pleasing, if you dress with simplicity and discreet modesty. Besides, it feels way lot better to be noticed because of your mind and personality, rather than your body.


8.Boys, chivalry doesn’t have to be dead and simple courtesies are never trivial and old-fashioned. Manners are the grease that allows society to function and using manners is a sign of respect for people. So by all means, open a door for a girl at your school, help out your teacher with the piles of books he's carrying down the hall, gently lead your Mama by the elbow when she’s tottering on her stiletto, help the elders cross the street, give up your seat to someone who needs it most and reclaim the ways of the gentlemen that has been a seemingly lost art in today’s generation.


9. There’s nothing wrong with following the rules. This is something I wish someone told me when I was a teen and now, I’m telling you. Your parents/guardians set this structures and rules to look out for your safety. By the time you graduate college {or when you're in college}, you’ll have all the time in the world to exercise the freedom to do what you want, which I hope you will, in a responsible way but for now, learn to live by the rules. It’ll serve you better in the future, believe me.


10. As a disciple of reading, I implore you to read! Find a good book you can get your hands on, sit down, prop your feet up on a table if you like, open it and for goodness sake, READ! I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m hounding you or something but if it does? My apologies. I simply want you to know that reading is not just important while you are in school, good reading skills are essential to future success in the workplace too. It has countless life-long benefits including prevention of Alzheimer’s, enhances your memory, reduce stress, generate good mood, it makes you more cultured, {haha!} among others. I also believe that in order for us to write well and speak well, we should read first as reading teaches thinking. Come up with your own conclusion on certain things, form an opinion, discover new interests, see the world and for the pleasure of it, READ.

Keep in mind that the habits you form now will stick with you for the rest of your life. Teenage years may seem challenging but it's not that bad either, you just have to make the most of it and enjoy it before things get serious {like paying the bills, decision-making with lasting effect and the what-nots}. Don’t rush things. Savor the moment. Be responsible. Stay on your studies. Aim high. Memorize Philippians 4:13 by heart and you’ll do just fine. You'll see ;)

Grace to you,

Ate Anie