Saturday, October 24, 2009

Trial Post

Hi, friends, I don't know if this will be published, but I did some tweaking because it has been the longest time since I last accessed my blog: couldn't open the dashboard to post new articles. I could and can open the past posts and reply to your comments, but as far as posting a new one, no go.

So let's see.

I miss you, guys. I don't know if I can come back to this site, but we'll see. I can always start a new one. I had been really busy, too. My calendar's full, that without the boys' schedules yet. But I'm here. For now.

I hope you get this. Thanks! Take care!

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I had been busy, and preoccupied lately.  Still am.  I have you all in mind, and will sit here and serve you coffee, truffles, and whatever you fancy.

But not right now, friends.  Momma's a little busy.

So bear with me, please.  Be good.

And don't forget to wash your hands.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Out of this World!

At  3 o'clock this morning, after I had gruellingly 'fixed' a new site and told everyone about it, this comes right back! 

Well, I am happy.  But, I'll see you on the other site as well, okay, my friends?

I'm bushed.  Good night!

(To those I hadn't informed yet, my other URL is

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Unbankable deliveries

Got a phone call from a bank today.

Me:  Hello.
B:  Hi, may I speak with Cherie De Castro?
Me:  This is she. 
B:  Ma'am, this is (name) from (Very Prominent Bank).  You have  a problem with your account, and ....
Me:  A problem with my account?  What happened?
B: (chuckles) Well, we are about to send you a .... for .... You don't have to commit right now.  Your account shows you have an excellent record...
Me:  Wait a minute.  First of all, you just said that my account shows I have an excellent record, which contradicts your introduction to me.  (I could hear the poor girl sounding embarrassed on the other end of the line.)  Second of all, I have already told somebody from (Very Prominent Bank) that I would contact you if ever I became interested.  And I am not.  Thank you for calling.

And I put the phone down.


And that's just one of those.  Try this.  It happened about a few months ago.  Also from them.

B: Hello, is Aristotle De Castro there?
A:  This is Aristotle.
B:  My name is (name) from (Very Prominent Bank).  Do you speak English?
A:  Aren't we talking already?

 And Aris continued to entertain.  But reported the rudeness to someone higher up.

Now, I don't know if it's just me, but I think people-oriented jobs require a lot more refinement from the employees, especially so if the company they're working for has a reputation to protect.  Whatever their reasons, the first scenario showed perfect incompetence, and the second one outright idiocy based, we suppose, on records of a not-so-English-sounding last name.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

This Side Of Town

turned a hundred posts today.
I truly didn't mean to celebrate.
But my neighbor Carol (of the tamales) chose this night to knock on my door again.
This time, she waved a plateful of delectable roast beef complete with garnishings in front of me. (I seriously MUST work on my Spanish - and quick.)
I took one look at my man. He took one look at me.
Then he went to the kitchen and reached for a bottle of red wine.
Come, let's clink glasses!

(photo source: Google Images

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Indomitable Spirit

Catastrophes can either make or unmake us.

I was 18 when Super Typhoon Sisang (designated Nina) slammed into the southern part of the Philippines, most especially the Bicol Region, where I was studying. It sustained winds of 275 mph as compared to Ketsana's 105 mph. Sisang/Nina was (at that time) reportedly the worst typhoon to have hit the Philippines in 20 years. I was in the dormitory, in bed, on the second floor, with no clue as to what was to come. Suddenly, I heard and saw girls screaming, doors slamming so hard, beds flying outside the window - yes, from the second floor. All of us who could pry our doors open ran downstairs, and huddled close as the winds continued to lash against the windows. Then the building shook. The piano in the corner slid to the other end. Other furniture followed. Broken glasses. More screaming. Flooding in. I remember hugging two of my friends and praying out loud, "Jesus, save us."

We stacked chairs and furniture one on top of the other as high as we could and perched on top, my fellow dormers and I. I helped remove shards of glasses from the arms and legs of the other girls who were unfortunate enough to have been by the windows when the winds lashed their fury.

We waited out the 'eye of the storm.' It was past midnight when the stillness engulfed us. Nobody slept, to say the least. Morning greeted us waist-deep in water. No breakfast, of course (I was mildly amused despite the situation), but everybody talked of going home, which was 60 km away (1 1/2 hours) for me. I packed whatever I could and started off with my friends. As the dormitory was inside the university campus, we had to walk through the maze of corridors in order to get out.

There was no university in site. One building was ground to a pulp. The rest was a sight to behold. Flood and debris everywhere. Hugging my belongings to my chest, I gasped when, thigh-deep in water, I saw a rat, about a foot away from me, swimming for dear life. It was then that reality sank in.

No transportation (we took buses). Landslides everywhere, buried bridges. We walked. Not the whole way, but miles and miles and miles of it just the same.

Home meant overlooking the moon at night as part of the roof was ripped off from my room. One friend joked he had to enter their house by the window. It was the only one open. Many more were worse off, as they had no houses left.

The whole thing meant no electricity (I think in the whole province) for 3 months. None. I do not know when we resumed classes (I was in my second year of Nursing) but when we did, it was in a modified building. No fish on the table. All sorts of stories like finding fingers and rings inside fishes' bodies circulated. And plenty of dead. I heard a story about a body floating from one town to another. And not enough coffins. The local priest had to minister benediction to bodies rolled in mats. And at least one woman went crazy looking for her dead. I heard these stories. And there were many more.

Ketsana's damage was in the unceasing rains, causing the 20 feet flooding, a catastrophe unheard of in more than 20 years. I perched scared and cold on top of chairs many years ago, while many of the recent typhoon survivors ENDURED hopeless days and nights on rooftops, not knowing if they would live or die. There is no fear like the fear of the unknown, and certainly the fear of death.

I am almost ashamed to admit that I do not know how I would have survived Ketsana with only the clothes on my back, and my undying faith.

Especially since my sister says the pedicab driver across the street continues to mindlessly ferry people to and fro while playing Christmas songs.


I thank everybody who has joined me and millions of others in the crusade of helping the calamity victims not only in the Philippines but also in Vietnam, Indonesia and the American Samoa. As we sleep tonight, many of them are still hungry or in search of their loved ones, or sick and injured. Let's keep them in our prayers. Many, many thanks, and God bless us all. ~~~ To those who still want to donate or help spread links to relief centers, please check out my older posts. Thank you for your kind heart.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Please give me back my smile."

(photo source:
Skywatch and a still picture of the tsunami aftermath in American Samoa a few days ago.

(photo source: BBC News)
Skywatch over Indonesia after the killer quakes a few days ago.

(photo source: BBC News)
~~Watery Wednesday meme entry~~

Twenty feet of floodwaters swallowed these houses, and so much more in a month's worth of rain that poured non-stop for 12 hours in the Philippines over the weekend.

My dear friends, here are a few more links to our desperate brothers and sisters
in the Philippines, Indonesia, and the American Samoa. Let us help them get their smiles back:

1. The Catholic Relief Services. It is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. It provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed.

This week alone, it has responded to 4 emergencies, including those in the Philippines and Indonesia.

To donate via phone: 1-877-HELP-CRS

To donate online:

To write a check: Catholic Relief Services
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090

(source: Thomson Reuters Foundation AlertNet - Alerting Humanitarians to Agencies)

2. To donate to Samoa (as I am not sure that it is included in the countries CRS serves, maybe so): please contact the American Red Cross
ARC - 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767)

Disaster Relief Fund:

American Red Cross
P.O. Box 37243
Washington, DC 20013
or your local ARC chapter

For a secure online donation:

(source: the American Red Cross. org.)


Thank you, everyone, for your patience. Would you link this up to your site (write a short article) so maybe we can gather more readership and touch more humanitarian hearts? We can't help these countries enough. Their needs are immediate. Many, many thanks from the bottom of my heart.

An Article on Southeast Asia Improving Its Response to Disasters

(lifted from CTV news, Oct. 1, 2009)

About 60 per cent of the world's natural disasters happen in Southeast Asia, and in the last few years important measures have been taken to limit the impact of these tragedies in the world's most vulnerable region.

The region is fraught with environmental circumstances that challenge rescue and relief organizations, experts say.

The last few days bear witness to just how fragile the region is:

Two earthquakes have hit Indonesia, killing hundreds of people and leaving thousands trapped under rubble.

A deadly Tsunami washed over the nation of Samoa, killing at least 150 people.

Residents of the Philippines are still trying to recover from devastating floods and Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are bracing for a dangerous typhoon.

These low-lying Southeast Asian countries are located on "extremely active" grounds, said Alison Bird, an earthquake seismologist with the Geological Survey of Canada.

There are several subduction zones in Southeast Asia that not only trigger earthquakes but spark volcanic eruptions and stir tsunamis.

Tsunamis are the most dangerous of natural disasters, Bird said in an interview with Thursday.

"Even the smallest wave can go quite far inland and cause quite the destruction," she said. "You can't outrun these -- they're too fast, too powerful."

Part of what makes the region so vulnerable is the land's topography. There's not a lot to protect residents who live close to the coast from a tsunami or even high winds.

Plus, poverty and dire circumstances has forced hundreds of people to live close to the water, putting them and their shelter in immediate danger of being destroyed.

Smart structures

A key element to helping people survive these disasters is better infrastructure and smarter engineering, said Bird.

"It doesn't take a lot to make structures earthquake resistant," she said. "It's been proven that there's an incredible increase in people's chance of survival."

Building better shelter and training Southeast Asian volunteers about survival has been a key mandate of the Red Cross, particularly since the calamity of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed nearly 230,000 people.

The Red Cross has built 5,500 homes in Indonesia since the disaster and has trained 1,200 volunteers in first aid, emergency evacuation, shelter and community preparedness, said Christina Lopes, a spokesperson for the organization.

"Build back better is our policy," she said. "The homes were built with more earthquake-resistant materials and they are better located, further up from the shore."

She said the recent disasters have shown her how much better residents in the area are prepared than they were back in 2004.

People were quicker to evacuate and the impact -- though devastating -- was not quite as deep.

She said she wouldn't be surprised if the Red Cross relied less on international assistance this time around than it did when it dealt with previous disasters.

Tough to overcome

Despite the overwhelming response from disaster relief charities to Southeast Asia, there are some obstacles that simply can't be overcome with charity work.

The challenges of developing countries are always exacerbated during a crisis. Weak and aging infrastructure turns into washed out roadways and bridges that make it impossible for relief workers to deliver supplies in a timely fashion.

"Poverty makes difficult living conditions even more difficult when there's a disaster," said Wesley Normington, a spokesperson for GlobalMedic -- an organization that sends paramedics and police officers from the Greater Toronto Area overseas to help out during a catastrophe.

The organization has sent several people to Indonesia to help with rescue and relief efforts.
"Their sewage system gets backed up which makes flooding worse. People don't have funds to purchase new items for their homes that would help them survive or they can't get themselves to a hospital," he said. "In the third world, they can't afford transportation so they have to walk for days to get to the nearest health care."

However, because the region is so prone to natural disasters, relief agencies have learned from experience over the years and have begun to coordinate their efforts.

Best of all, Normington said, accountability of the charities have drastically improved.

"Accountability is probably the most important thing that has come out after the (2004) tsunami," he said. "Not only are people more aware now but steps have been taken by the international community to make sure charities are more accountable."
Bird agreed that things have certainly improved since the 2004 disaster and credited public education.

"The tsunami really woke a lot of people up and education goes a long way," she said.

I want to thank everyone who has extended most valuable and needed help to the Philippines. It seems as though there is no end to all the tragedies. With one out, another one comes in. It is very sad. But there is no devastation so immense that can break a faithful heart. Thank you for crossing the lines, for embracing brotherhood, and for giving LOVE a whole new meaning. I am a mere stranger to many of you but you have not been hesitant. Let us now help our brothers and sisters in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the American Samoa. I will post the international relief organizations here for said countries as soon as I can. Or if you have them, please forward them to me, too. God bless you, my precious, blogger friends, my brothers and sisters.

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someone very blessed to walk this life with you