Generations: The Games Children Play

I grew up on Archie comicbooks, Superbook and coloring books. I had stacks of paper dolls worn from constant reuse; and sketch pads with worn pages and filled with childish scribbles in crayons and pencil.

Growing up with a brother less than 2 years older than I am, we’ve together narrowly escaped pretending to be taking a siesta once too often while trying to discreetly mimic the wrestling moves we see every day in the World Wrestling Federation. The few times we were caught, we’d be facing a furious mom telling my brother that if he wanted to kill me from the body slam he liked trying on me, we can experiment throwing his little sister – me – down the stairs so the impact of the body slam would be greater. (Of course I only found out recently that in his mind, my brother was actually thinking – Oh Wow! Can we, really???).

Our playroom contained shelves-full of my brother’s action figures, gigantic He-Man castles and Voltes V robots. My side of the room was littered was stuffed toys, dolls and play kitchen sets. An occasional box or two of Lego would surface. Sometimes Play Doh, much to my mom’s chagrin.

Our share of cartoons was often spent sitting on our designated chairs on Saturday mornings for the weekly Fun Machine with the Great Space Coaster, Yogi Bear, Captain Caveman and Uncle Bob.

Weekends, I spent hours playing make-believe housekeeping, school and dream vacations with my cousins while we would sprawl her huge blankets over the living room couch and create make-believe camping tents. By the end of the day, my cousin would be in my grandmother’s bedroom sulking — and I’d be in the living room couch sulking too. For the life of me I can’t remember the things we fought about. Every night before we went home though, we made it a point to be friends again.

All these things made for great years of fun, imagination and crazy antics that made my childhood extra rich in color and fantasy.

I am aghast today watching my niece and her friends live their childhood very differently from how I did. Children’s fantasy nowadays consists of little electronic toys gadgets, game consoles and shiny, little round things called DVDs that play cartoons, movies and video games. My 9-year old niece, Maia, spends hours during our family get-togethers hunched over my 23-year old brother’s Nintendo DS and PSP playing Pokemon and god-knows-what-else is brewing inside those little things.

Give Maia a cellphone — running on any OS — and she’ll figure it out faster than my own brother and sister-in-law could.

At the height of the Farmville fame, she managed to create one of the prettiest and most productive farms on Farmville in my neighborhood. Her mom couldn’t keep up. She used to visit my farm everyday and try to help manage my dead crops and starving farm animals, until she cried out with frustration one day that I don’t care about my farm anyway so why should she continue helping me.

It’s not just Maia. One Holy Week a few years ago, a good friend of ours called us and asked if he could borrow our Wii console for the break. He needed it because his 8-year old daughter’s cousins are staying over at their place, and he promised them they could spend all their time playing Wii during the break.

My childhood affair with video games was limited to visiting the PacMan and Space Invader arcade machines in Greenhills or Green Valley, Baguio.

Atari made it to our home when I was a tween, but it was something my dad and mom enjoyed much more than I did.

Of course technology eventually made its way into our home. Eventually we had our first home computer running on DOS with Wordstar and Page Maker being the coolest things to hit the computing world.

Much later on, the entire family adopted our very first Nintendo Family Computer which made for more hours of kids and adults soaked in Tetris, Contra and Mario Bros.

Looking back, while it seemed awesome having video games to play with at your disposal (without needing coins to power the machine), I remember getting bored easily and eventually wanting to get back to my Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams books. Or conjuring imaginary adventures with my favorite action figures She-Ra, Swiftwind and Double Trouble.

Watching kids of today bury their heads in game consoles or cellphones makes we nostalgic for the kind of childhood I (and my generation) still managed to enjoy. We, the Gen X’ers I believe, were the lucky bunch who managed to straddle both worlds. The world make-believe that happens in our heads; and the world of make-believe on the screens of these high-tech gadgets and consoles.

While I am a proud aunt of a niece who’s more intelligent that my genius brother and sister-in-law combined; while she devours  books with as much ferocity as I do (she has the complete collection of Nancy Drew; she finished Harry Potter Book 7 in just 3 days); and while she inherits my love of writing and creates masterpieces of short stories and poems — I nonetheless wish for her and for my future kids the chance to draw from their own imaginations from a blank canvass of a childhood uncomplicated by the convenience of the high-tech life.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with making sure kids are new-generation savvy, there’s nothing that compares to the charm, the innocence, the perfection of a child free to run around and explore the real world. The colorful sights, the natural sounds, the earthy smells of soil and sweat, the company of other children, the highs and lows of childhood that made everything absolutely A-OK.

“Generations”  is a new feature in lovesstories that takes a closer look at how 15-20 years makes a huge difference in society and culture today. Stay tuned for more “Generations” posts in the coming weeks and months. Cheers!

Photos displayed were taken from various sites on google image. You may click the photo to find the original link of where the photos were taken.

An Open Letter to the President Elect

Dear President Noynoy,

I know I’m only one of thousands of people sending you messages, well wishes and suggestions.

But in the off-chance that you, or one of your trusted supporters or administration staff do get to read this, I sincerely hope that you would heed what I am writing because I believe many share my sentiments.

For the sake of national unity & healing, I implore you to please cease all this crap about snubbing the Chief Justice. I implore you to please stop politicking and doing whatever you can to snub decisions made by the administration of PGMA. Whether she truly and genuinely has an agenda of her own past her Presidential term is no longer the relevant matter, nor should she even be the focus of your political agenda. You will be declared the President of this country. When the time comes, we believe that you and your administration will do what needs to be done regarding this matter.

But in the meantime, please do not start your term and your office (you have not even been proclaimed yet!) betraying the trust of those who voted for you. Many voted for you because they all believed you would be the instrument of change. And for change to take place where and when it should, there’s no room for traditional politicians. But since the appointment of Chief Justice Corona, your actions and reactions have been painfully reminiscent of a trapo.

What’s saddening by this, is that this makes you no better than those you accuse of using their position of power to advance their own agenda. While this may not be your intention, it still feels like you’re putting your own agenda ahead of the needs of the country.

I just wish for once that people in power would lessen their bickering, and just act more. Words are nothing without action. Promises are nothing until we see steps being taken to meet them.

So much time is spent bickering and arguing like schoolyard bullies resorting to childish name-calling. It’s getting old and tiring. It’s so painfully familiar. Is this the change you promised?

Before the 2010 Elections Campaign period began, many people (like me) were cynical and skeptical that anything good will happen in this country. For my part, I’d lost hope that I could build a good and comfortable life for myself and my family here. I’d lost hope that hard work, diligence and responsibility will amount to anything here. I compare our country to our Asian counterparts who have far far surpassed us already in progress and development, and I wonder why in spite of our talent and wealth of promise, we’re lagging seriously far behind.

And I realized it’s largely because of our culture of governance. So much time is wasted arguing and bickering. Picking on each other. Finding loopholes and shortcomings.

If people in the administration could argue objectively setting aside personal agenda and governing with only the best interests of the nation at heart – I believe so much more can be accomplished.

During your campaign, you promised change. While snubbing the Chief Justice is certainly a change (it’s never been done and will probably be cause for yet another major catastrophe in governance) — will this even accomplish anything positive for the country?

For you, perhaps it makes a point and makes your stand pretty clear.

But what value does it have  for ordinary decent, hardworking, taxpaying citizens like me?  What about for the millions of starving families baking under the intense heat of the El Nino sun whose homes can’t even protect them from nature’s forces?

In the greater scheme of things, where you take your oath is actually a small, trivial matter. While it’s a much awaited and much anticipated event, it’s much like a wedding. A one day, one-off affair that in reality, has absolutely no bearing, nor an impact to the marriage. Unlike many women, I don’t put much value in weddings. Ultimately, what does matter is the marriage.

And the same is true for governance. Does it really, truly matter where you take your oath of office?

I hate opening the morning papers reading about the politics of the President Elect snubbing the newly appointed Chief Justice.

Why can’t I read instead about you appointing the right people for the right job in your cabinet?

Why can’t I read about policies you will enforce in your administration that will serve the citizens of this country rather than the interests of those who serve?

Why can’t I read about a team looking into an in-depth analysis of our economic structure in the attempts of pinpointing the best strategy to reduce our debts without burdening the taxpapers any further and adding the burden of economic progress on the growth of OFWs?

Why can’t I read about educational programs intended to uplift the standards of our public education system?

And what exactly can be done with the situation in Mindanao?

So much work to do, yet all I see in the papers are more politics.

So please, live up to your promises in your campaign and please start the change that we need. It has to begin with you, you see. We will take your lead.

And please, don’t start your term with vengeance and vindication in your heart. For once, we need a President who will think about our welfare first for a change.

Puppet Pleasure

It’s been a while.

Almost two hours straight of belly-aching nonstop laughter mingled with a few embarrassed tugs in the heart that elicited a tiny tear or two. And it was all because of puppets.

Well, if you’ve skipped ahead or recognize the photo in this post, then you’d have figured out that I got to see Avenue Q over the weekend at the Carlos P. Romulo theater in RCBC Plaza. This was the 3rd staging of the broadway musical play in Manila, and obviously this was the only time I got to watch it live. All these years, I only got to repeatedly listen to the soundtrack.

Although you can pretty much pick up most of the story through the soundtrack, it’s a whole different story actually watching it live. It’s fun and funny; witty and gritty; downright honest and genuine. It has heart and soul enough to make anyone recognize bits of themselves and parallelisms to their own personal struggles and pain.

Here’s a bit of trivia about Avenue Q: one of its writers and creators, Robert Lopez, is 3/8 Filipino. It’s not on the Internet, but it’s on the programme of the show. He grew up in America, at some point realized that racial discrimation in the country continues to plague the streets. Avenue Q was the manifestation of his pent-up emotions about this pervasive phenomenon.

Truth be told, I don’t have much experience about racial discrimination. I’ve been lucky all my life to evade any negatives on the racial discrimination issue. I’m Filipino-Chinese, you see. In Manila, Filipino-Chinese are generally well regarded. And lucky for me, I have extremely fair skin. The worst I ever got (and it ain’t even bad) is having people always assume that I’m rich. (heck, not all Chinese are rich. Some Chinese don’t even fall under the “middle class” SEC anymore).

But I digress.

I love Avenue Q for its recency, its very apt and accurate representation of the seemingly inconsequential issues that plague our society today. It pokes fun at the little idiosyncracies and the ills, temptations and annoyances of contemporary society – and points out the same things we go through on an almost daily basis.

Think about it. You have a fresh ivy league graduate entering Avenue Q: positive, hopeful and idealistic of his future; thinking that everything will just fall into place for him. Without knowing that when real life happens, it leaves no one unscathed. And then you’ve got child star has-beens who just roam side and back streets looking for a way to continue making a living. And there’s the naive, innocent school teacher who cringes at the thought that ‘internet is for porn’, who falls in love too soon and gets her heart broken when she loses the love of her life — who happens to just be going through a lot of personal s**t and needs to sort things out for himself, and by himself. But of course there’s also the proverbial slut who tries to steal the guy. And oh yes… how can we forget, the closet gay who falls in love with his straight best friend – who is himself a pretty smart guy but somehow ends up on the street passing the hat around.

It’s all so stereotypical. And frankly, looking at it might seem like a truly sad portrayal of real life.

But then, as we do so strongly espouse the silver lining behind every dark cloud, so too does Avenue Q end on an upbeat mood.

“Everyone’s a little bit unsatisfied. Everyone goes around a little empty inside. Take a breath, look around, swallow your pride… for now. Nothing lasts, life goes on… Full of surprises. You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes. You’re going to have to make a few compromises for now. For now. But only for now…”

Yes. Everything is only for now. So chin up and just let life roll off your back.