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Public servant in training; troubleshooter in action and spy in another life. I live ... I ignore warning labels. I revel in the pressure, the adrenaline ... that feeling of being on the edge and the fast pace that characterizes life ... welcome to my world!

Long Distance Relationship with our Son: Mother’s Day

©Moira Garcia Gallaga

It’s Mother’s Day and first off, I would just like to greet my fellow mothers out there on this special day a very happy Mother’s Day! On this occasion where motherhood is celebrated and given due recognition, I can’t help but dwell on my experience and feeling of what it is like being a Mom.

Just as each individual person is unique, so are mothers. We may have a common experience of bringing a person to life, but we mothers come in all shape, character, temperament, style, etc. So I figured I would share with you my thoughts and experience as a mother.

I am blessed with one son and as a Mom, one nagging worry always at the back of my head is if I had been a good Mom. Did I do right by him, did I raise him up properly? When he was born, I was still working at the Palace, and given the fast-paced, high pressure working environment, it was challenging to balance the demands of work and being a mother. My work involved a lot of overseas travel too, so I did my best to find time for family and my baby boy. When I did have the time, I would make the most of it. That would be the pattern even during our foreign posting in Los Angeles and Washington DC, where from time to time I would be detailed to Summits and Presidential visits.

He was quite a handful growing up. He was a bundle of energy, forever restless and loved to test our limits. As someone with quite a temper, he would take me to the brink on more than one occasion and I had to make an effort to not step over the line. I didn’t realize it then that in my efforts to instill some discipline in him, he was also helping me gain mastery over my temper.

One of the songs in the Mother’s Day playlist he sent yesterday. I like this one and it made me bawl. We raised a compassionate, independent and responsible kid. May I add, a so cool son who is not scared of anything … moved out at 18 and a half years old, living alone overseas at 19 and flying from one country to another just to surf, play futebol. A voracious reader and has experienced life with failures and success. As he said about how he lives his life: failing without a net to catch him; without my parents who can always make things happen; got goals in life, but without a map.

At least I wasn’t alone in the effort. My husband was just as involved, and we worked as a team. Only thing is we sometimes weren’t sure if what we were doing was correct. There are many books, articles and material about parenting, but everyone admits there is no magic formula, no guaranteed method or technique other than just make the best effort you can to prepare your child for life and at a certain point, the rest is up to them and you just have to hope for the best.

After our US posting I resigned from government service and had more time to spend and bond with my son, who was now becoming a teenager. A different set of challenges now. Before it was all about making sure he didn’t get into trouble, or harm himself and others, and teaching him values and how to conduct himself in the world around him. Now this was all about preparing him for the challenges of life, steeling him for the harsh realities of a grownup’s world and building for himself traits and an attitude that would help him achieve stability and security for his future. Well, it appears he had other things in mind and his stubborn streak didn’t make things easier. No surprise there as he got that from both parents. Karma? Hahaha. Yet, there was quite a lot of upsides too, as we got to do things and travel together now that I had more time to spend with him. It was a great opportunity as well to learn more about each other.

He is 20 now and is based far away. Any fears I had that he was going to struggle being by himself and dealing with adulthood in general have been assuaged. From a rambunctious and mischievous little kid, he’s turned out to be a kind, loving and responsible young man. After my most recent visit to him, I could see that he was going to be okay. I’m so proud of him, and I guess that should assure me that I did alright by him as a Mom.

I think that is what it is like being a Mom, looking constantly for signs and assurances that you are on the right track and seeking affirmation that your child loves you and thinks the world of you. Thing is, it is hard and rare to find that assurance and affirmation as they are growing up. It is hard to spot at times in the constant to and fro of the daily interaction. In my experience, it is only once you have let him go and allow them to find themselves on their own that you will finally get that assurance you did good. Then when you see that bright spark in his eyes and the joy he projects when he meets you after a prolonged absence, that’s your affirmation right there.

09 May 2021

Loss and Grief during the Pandemic: One Year Death Anniversary of Peque Gallaga

©Moira Garcia Gallaga

Today is the one-year death anniversary of Dad (my father-in-law). Except for Mom and one sibling in Bacolod, all of us (children and in-laws) were in Manila because of the MECQ  in place. No flights, and almost everything was closed. He passed away and we couldn’t be there with him and Mom in his final moments.

A death in the family is always difficult. The loss is painful and it rocks you to your core. You work through the pain by grieving, letting it out in the hope it moves on. Apparently, it isn’t that simple. It is a year since Dad’s passing and with no closure we continue to grieve. I could feel it in me, persistent and heavy, weighing me down emotionally.

When someone dies unexpectedly, there is the shock that comes with the realization of the news. This wasn’t like that at all. Dad didn’t die of Covid-19, but his body was letting him down. He was getting in a bad way, but we figured he might bounce back from it. When he had to be brought to the hospital, we had a chance to talk to him over video group chat and figured things might still turn out okay.

Except that wasn’t the case. I can’t imagine what Mom went through when the doctor asked for her decision, but she handled it with strength and a calm resolve. Dad was the spirit and soul of the family, but Mom is the bedrock that holds us together. When Mom updated us the harsh realization that we were going to lose Dad started setting in. This was a shock that leaves you numb. There was also a crawling, creeping fear, bubbling and simmering inside, increasing in intensity as days pass.

It just got worse from there. Bad enough we had to start dealing with losing Dad, it is further aggravated by knowing we couldn’t fly out to be with Mom and him because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. As he had to be sedated, we weren’t even able to say goodbye to him by phone or video chat, to let him know how much we loved him and how we were going to miss him. It’s like torture, I am haunted by the thought that if it weren’t for the pandemic, we would have been on a plane already the moment he was brought to hospital. It feels like some minion of Fate is mocking me, playing a cruel joke and enjoying my grief and misery.

Some say parenting is more art than science as there isn’t an exact formula or method to the process. Good thing you’re an artist at heart, Dad

It is one year from Dad’s passing and strangely, Metro Manila is still once again under MECQ. I still haven’t found closure. I miss Dad a lot and whenever his name is mentioned and something is written about him, I tear up and I think all of us do. I still grieve for his loss, as I’m sure the rest of the family likewise continue to do so in our own ways, fractured from each other and stuck in our respective isles of isolation.

Sharing these thoughts and feelings is I guess one way I deal with the loss and this grief I continue to feel. I know there are many around the world who find themselves in similar or somewhat related situations, grieving for a loss in the family from far, far away, waiting to be able to take that journey home to pay their final respect. I think this is a common and indelible feature of the human race, the need to properly mourn and pay respects a departed loved one. I sometimes take small comfort in the words of Helen Keller:

“We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world—the company of those who have known suffering.”

In the meantime, I will continue to carry the hole in my heart created by your departure from this world Dad, and fill it with the pleasant memories I have of you.

It already has been a year,

Sense of grief is always there,

The loss and its pain,

Continues to remain,

Life needs to move on somehow,

But it doesn’t have to be now,

In time this grief will be a small part,

Tucked in some corner of my heart.

©moiragallaga

We saw this while we were in Istanbul in December, and we were already sobbing by the time the movie got to this part. That cane was like a part of him, I guess the tribute used it to symbolize the mark he left in this world. Farewell Dad, and I would like to think that you are now busy exploring the worlds you created.

Random Musings at a Time of Enforced Isolation

© Moira G. Gallaga

Whenever I take a break from writing, I sometimes end up pondering about this state of enforced immobility and isolation. Here are a few of those random musings:

Instead of exploring places and wandering about the outside world, we make do exploring virtually and going inside our heads, wrestling with our thoughts.

Nature’s healing with people stuck inside their respective homes.

It is an ordeal for a free spirit like me. There is a world of difference between deciding to stay indoors to being forced to stay indoors.

Trying to keep safe from the virus is also an exercise in keeping one’s spirit healthy and lively.

A new normal is being bandied about with vaccinations already ongoing, but will this be the case years down the road? History kind of shows that mankind is not that good in terms of learning from the past.

The streets of the concrete jungle are empty, the metropolis is quiet, its hustle and bustle suspended until further notice

I so miss the little things, even the mundane ones of just having breakfast at Wildflour Cafe here in our area, then to Fully Booked, Healthy Options, and Rustan’s Marketplace. Spontaneously dropping by at friend’s offices, or having lunches or dinner with those whose work is near our place. Hanging out at Washington Sycip Park reading and munching on junk foods and when taking a break people watching those jogging fanatics across Legazpi Active Park inflicting pain on themselves by jogging or exercising.

Pre-pandemic playground

Enforced immobility has forced me to come face to face with a personal project long on hold, disrupted by my frequent wandering about. The situation has finally got me to sit down long enough to finish it.

One down from the bucket list, and freelance gigs

Life in the so called new normal. Adapting to new ways of working. Learning to cope with limited mobility and enforced isolation. Praying for the safety and health of loved ones. Making the most of the situation.

05 May 2021

How the Pandemic Changed Me

© Moira G. Gallaga

I believe it is already a given that the world and a lot of things in our lives are not going to be the same after this Covid-19 pandemic. Perhaps there will be an effort to restore a semblance of normalcy and to regain the life that was before the pandemic, but I doubt if we could really recapture that fully intact. For one, this pandemic and what it has wrought this past year has affected me significantly on a personal level and I am quite conscious of changes it has brought about in me as a person.

I started helping out in my own way since the start of First ECQ on 15 March 2020. Resumed again this year when we go back to ECQ and MECQ in April 2021.

The fear is not for me but for my family and loved ones generated by the threat posed by the virus has forced me to reflect on life in general. Then there is the death toll, and we are not just talking about the numbers, we are talking about our family, people we know or loved ones of friends, relatives and colleagues. It makes one re-assess one’s priorities in life. I suddenly found myself no longer caring about material things, and have slowly adopted a more practical and minimalist mindset. It’s no longer about what I want to buy, but about places, things and stuff to do, experience, see, taste, hear, smell and feel.

This experience has further made me touch deeper into my spiritual self. A renewed connection with my faith and with God. A newfound appreciation of the daily blessing of being alive, to be given another crack at life upon waking. I say a prayer of thanks at the start of my day and at its end. I guess in a time and condition that makes us feel very vulnerable, our faith serves as our armor.

I didn’t ask for any photos, this was sent to me by the caterer.

The pandemic has also forced us into isolation and severely restricted our movements, and this is more pronounced for me as I have my health condition and being a wanderer at heart I’m not used to being constricted in one place, much so in a tiny condo unit. Yet, I found myself expanding and reactivating my network of friends and contacts. Thanks to technology I have been reconnecting with childhood friends from my elementary, high school and university days. I have gained new friends through online social interaction, whether through academic webinars, or simply engaging on topics of interest. Not to mention all the freelance gigs I’ve been getting since the start of ECQ last March 2020.

While I have also been actively involved in doing volunteer work as I like helping out people, I have had to adjust the manner by which I seek to carry this out. I would normally join a group and be in the thick of the action, onsite, helping out together with similar minded friends and people. Now, with limitations on my movement for health and safety reasons, I contribute where and when I can. This means helping those in close proximity, such as providing food for all the workers (guards, maintenance, housekeeping, reception and admin) in our condo building. We sent them meals during the times the city was under ECQ, MECQ and every time there’s a typhoon. We resumed it again starting last month when we went back to ECQ and then to MECQ. Also, provided food for several healthcare workers in UP Diliman because the caterer lives near the area. I would support local entrepreneurs by patronizing their products, which is usually food. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this crisis, one is that we are all in this together. We will only overcome this pandemic as a community working together and helping each other out.

So whatever happens to the world around us after all this, whether it will return to normal or not, things will definitely not be the same for me because I am no longer exactly the same person before it.

04 May 2021

WANTED: Informed Citizenry

© Moira G. Gallaga

I miss college days where we enjoyed hours of exchanging ideas without fear of being branded with any political leanings and to be able to do so in front of instructor/s who appreciates lively and intelligent discussion. I miss the honest take of students, how they react to a situation presented to him/her based on their knowledge of the subject, the reaction as a Filipino and as a citizen mindful of his/her social responsibility to this country. 

I hope we can conduct discussions like this without attributing political motivation or being judged as pro or anti government, but rather as informed and involved citizens who are exercising our rights to determine our destiny in a democracy.

A man may be loyal to his government and yet oppose the particular principles and methods of administration.- Abraham Lincoln

When do we begin to start to trust our Constitution and institutions? Let us be honest with ourselves here, when will we Filipinos unanimously say we have the right leader or when will we ever get the right leader? The answer is in strengthening our institutions, allowing it to work and become more relevant than the people who are elected and chosen to run them so that governing/governance is no longer about the leader but about the office and institution that they represent. Strong institutions require transparency and meritocracy and helps ensure proper discharge of duties and responsibilities. This is what we should be doing, not simply just continually looking or hoping to elect the right leader or our political messiah. That’s like trying to win the lotto instead of doing an honest day’s work. 

We are so personality oriented and react within that context and that is why we end up in this vicious cycle of being taken for granted all the time by people in authority. We are a democracy, but we don’t trust our democratic institutions such as the judiciary, the law enforcement authorities, our electoral process, and government in general. What does that say about us as a country and a people? Yes, things are very intense and uncertain but if we don’t begin to place a bit of trust into our institutions and allow them to work and just simply go on and continue to second-guess motives and speculate on what could be, then we deserve to be continually stuck in this vicious political paralysis that we have been in for many years now.

It will take time and there is a long, long way to go but we should be able to grow out of our tendency to worship at the altar of personality and be ruled by our emotions and begin to demand and expect more from those we elect to lead us. 

It is our responsibility to be an informed citizen…So asking about the process or raising questions doesn’t mean you’re against or pro-government, it is a means to achieve understanding. As they say, only a dead fish flows with the current. We have the right to ask and should not be judged for our queries, but rather on our actions. In the Philippines, we are too personality oriented and we tend to allow emotions to rule rather than logic and intellect. People take stands according to the protagonists involved, not on the merits or demerits of the issue at hand. Critical thinking and objectivity gets drowned out by partisanship. We must rise above this in order to become more responsible and informed citizens so that politics can be lifted from the muck where it currently resides.

If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.” – Plato

Being very much aware of our history, whose fault will it be in the event we allow history to repeat itself and for the failure to break this cycle of our political development? This will be a reflection of our political maturity (or lack of it) as a people and a nation if this happens.

So yes, let us be vigilant and keep a close watch so there is no abuse. 

A leap of faith and then keep the faith. ©


Regardless of how one feels about the Leader, one MUST at all times RESPECT the Institution – Office of the President

03 May 2021

Misguided Brilliance

© Moira G. Gallaga

Our crafty hands and mechanical minds
have built a wide world awash in wonders,
but our cleverness has us in a bind
as our achievements turn into blunders.

Never insult nature with bad poetry. She retaliates by confusing you,changing her climate, ways of being, so that your words can’t grasp her anymore. (Istanbul, Turkey)

Take the industrial revolution,
a well-deserved homage to iron and steel,
but we didn’t know that air pollution
would change our planet’s entire look and feel.

As we leisurely assess the damage,
impersonal clipboards and pens in hand,
we seem to have crossed out the old adage:
burning bridges leaves so little dry land.

I’m all for taking risks, but I don’t mess with nature and face its wrath. (Salamanca, Spain)

As we torch the sky and all beneath it,
let’s write our planet a lovely obit.

02 May 2021

Failure is a Blessing in Disguise

© Moira G. Gallaga

In life, we experience a lot of failure and disappointments. May it be major, like not getting into a job that we really like or a little less complicated like not having the food that we crave for. It varies in intensity, but just the same, we get disappointed when we fail.

But in life, we should not place the focus on our failure or disappointments. We focus on our abilities to stand up and move on. Yes, it is easier said than done but once we believe what we say, eventually we get to make it real. Hence, when we say- “I can do this. I’m better than this and I can move on and believe in it,” eventually and without knowing it, we had already done it.

Failure will always be a part of our lives. No matter how careful we are not to fail or not to be disappointed, we can’t avoid it. Life is not enjoyed by how close to perfection we’ve lived, but how we face our failures and how we learn to accept it and be a better person after it.

They say we only get to appreciate the good things that are happening to us when we get to experience the bad or even the worst things in life. A friend of mine applied for a job as a barista. He wanted it real bad but then he failed to pass the interview. He was devastated. He didn’t want to apply for other jobs anymore for he thought he was a failure. Eventually, he got his act together and started to apply for jobs again. He was interviewed in a well-known restaurant and he passed.

From Pan Pacific Hotel in Singapore, he’s now at The Ritz-Carlton and he’s happy with it. He told me once, if it wasn’t for that failure he had on his first interview he will not get to work with this five star hotel, get to meet cool people like me (Hehehe! His words, not mine), and have the opportunities, which he values so much now. He learned a thing or two from that experience.

When something in your life failed, it doesn’t mean that will be the trend of your life. More importantly, failure does not define who you are, as long as you stand up from it and keep moving on. It’s just part of our journey in this crazy but wonderful life. It is simply just being human and you learn to be stronger every step of the way. With that, I can say failure is an occasion that will teach us about ourselves. It is a test and may be a blessing in disguise. We may see it as a reason of stress at first, but after we get passed it, we realize that it’s a reason for us to appreciate a life that we sometimes take for granted.   

29 April 2021  

Trust Life a Little Bit

© Moira G. Gallaga

Most of us have had at least one bad experience, which often has the result of making us somehow mistrust life and assume that things are not going to work out. However, the past cannot be changed, and we should learn to put it behind us. As is often said, everything happens for a reason. Our lives are not perfect, and all of us will experience bad times and problems at some point, and these are an inevitable part of life and cannot be avoided. 

We all have to trust life a little bit, in order to make the most of life and those opportunities that come our way. In addition to seizing opportunities, we have to learn how to take risks, so that our full potential is realized. Trust in God, remain focused and work as hard as we can, things should generally work out and we can consider ourselves blessed. In addition, we can also share our blessings with one another as that is a way we help each other trust life a little bit more.

Allow random opportunities because it pushes us into unexpected and sometimes startling moments. ©
Allow random opportunities because it pushes us into unexpected and sometimes startling moments. ©

27 April 2021

Kind Acts and Words

© Moira G. Gallaga

(I wrote this sometime in 2011, a year and half after collapsing and being placed in ICU for a week. With this current pandemic, it just seems appropriate to recall anecdotes that highlight the good in people)

Whether it’s an unusual show of courtesy or a loving action that flows from a compassionate heart – the smile and friendly words of a stranger have the power to re-empower another. We experience this everyday, from that shy child you walk past on the street to the tireless cashier at your market….

One of the reasons I never lose faith in humanity. Strangers and friends who are just there – just because. © MGG

It reminds me of an incident two weeks ago at the Greenhills Antique Furniture shop where I was checking on some stuff for the house. Due to the heat and the large number of people doing last minute shopping for school items, I got one of those dizzy spells that plague me. I approached the nearest shop where an elderly couple seemed to be arguing about something. I asked them, “Can I sit here, please?” and pointed to one of their antique stools. The woman replied with a quiet, sincere smile: “Please do.” They asked me if I’m okay and I just said maybe it’s the heat. The two nodded and before I knew it the elderly man bought bottled mineral water, got his electric fan and set it up in front of me. When I got up to leave a while later they thanked me for the company! I was left stammering, I was so grateful for their simple, kind welcome it left me tongue tied. It hadn’t been an overly inspiring day for me, and that incident somehow offered new hope for the often-dreary present.

A quote whose author is unknown to me: “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes can last a lifetime.” I want to say thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Samonte.

26 April 2021

Upheavals

©Moira G. Gallaga

The start of 2020 was the end of one chapter of our life and the beginning of a new one. It was time to uproot ourselves once again and go home to the Philippines. It’s all part and parcel of the life we live and have chosen. It takes a lot of planning and preparation to move one’s life from one country to another, an upheaval of sorts. But this is our 5th time, so we got everything in hand. Slight difference is that our son decided to remain in Portugal, start his own chapter of his life separate from ours. No worries, we knew early on in our diplomatic posting that was his plan. If anything, it just ensured that Portugal would feature a bit prominently in our travel plans in the future.

Lisbon to Manila, 31 January 2020
Homeward Bound, 31 January 2020

Well, what we thought would have been a routine upheaval has suddenly turned into a major one courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic. We didn’t see this one coming, and those assumptions, plans and expectations related to our return home all went flying out the window once Covid-19 went into full swing and started wreaking havoc on everyone’s lives and peace of mind the world over. It’s fair to say that no one anywhere really saw this coming, that this pandemic was a truly unprecedented situation but that still provided little comfort. The restrictions in movement, the enforced isolation, the anxiety and the mental toll this all brought about was further aggravated by decisions deemed pragmatic at the time before Covid-19. We figured we didn’t need much space in our residence as we would be taking every opportunity to be out and about, reconnecting with friends, visiting family and relatives, exploring the Philippines and the nearby region. Tension has suddenly become an uninvited guest in our home due to the nature of remote work and the setup of our cramped home. Not to mention loss and grief with their unannounced visits and rising frequency. Nothing to do but to cope, adjust and make the most of what is a truly difficult and challenging situation.

Sad to see closed restaurants … lockdowns … emptiness, both in place and soul. (Turkey, 23 December 2020 to 02 January 2021)

A year has passed and life still remains upended. However, it wasn’t without its good moments. Notwithstanding the challenges of traveling during a pandemic, the 3 of us managed to get together for Christmas and New Year in Istanbul, plus I also got to spend almost a month with our son in Portugal. Wonderful and brief moment, but well worth the effort, the risks and the cost to pull it off. A year has passed, and one is tempted to say we have slowly adapted to the “new normal” (I hate this term). Perhaps, but for me that was really just a matter of survival. We haven’t been really living this past year, at least not in my case. I am a wanderer at heart, I seek experiences, sights, tastes and sounds. I yearn for some semblance of normalcy that existed before this pandemic came around and turned everything inside out.

A challenging year behind us/No guarantees it will get better/But a new year always ushers hope/Vanishing the fear and dread/Let us strive to make it better now. © (Hagia Sofia, Istanbul)

The vaccines have started to arrive. It represents a light at the end of this constricted tunnel that is our current existence. I look forward to the promise it brings, of the opportunity to get our lives back on track. They say life won’t be the same after the pandemic, and I will agree to that. What I am counting on, however, is that life can be and will be better with the shackles gone and our spirits and being once again unleashed and free.

Istanbul to Lisbon, January 2021
Marsaxlokk, Malta (December 2018)

25 April 2021