Category: Family

My brother, the weekend triathlete and runner

Lino got me into triathlon. He was hooked at a time when I was  a contented runner and scared of venturing into something new. He took me on my first “serious” ride around the village. I got hooked after two rides. Then he got a job that kept him up throughout the nights. I continued to train. He watched me with pride and envy, occasionally joining me for a 10k race or a duathlon.

Last year, he took a year off to study and live  in New York. I missed him. He suggested we do the New York tri together last July since he lived only a few blocks from the race venue.

He didn’t tell me  we had to park our bikes in his bathroom, that we had to carry them down 5 flights of stairs..and then carry them back up. But hey, what could be better than racing in NY with my brother..

Bikes and wetsuits and everything else parked in the bathroom
Bikes and wetsuits and everything else parked in the bathroom

 

I trained a LOT in Manila, he trained a LITTLE in NY. I ran and biked under the sun, he sunbathed in Central Park..

Sunbathing with Gemma in Central Park
Sunbathing with Gemma in Central Park

I did wet suit swims, he bought a wet suit one week before the race. I raced seriously, he smiled for the camera.n1350397913_75918_2901

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He threatened to beat me. I laughed…Not this race, baby. nytri-lino

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Truth is, he could beat me any day IF he trained just a little bit more.

That same year, he convinced me  it was a chance of a lifetime to do New York marathon together. I convinced him to meet up with me after my conference in Geneva and do Amsterdam Marathon. We did both 2 weeks apart. I ran to do my personal best, he ran to capture his first marathon on video.

After crossing the finish line of NY Marathon
After crossing the finish line of NY Marathon
Amsterdam Marathon - it was freezing!
Amsterdam Marathon - it was freezing!

 

The day he returned to Manila was a surprise to me. I was running with my training partner Joey  early one morning and out of the corner of my eye I saw this familiar figure in black sitting on the curb of the road. I started screaming. Joey had no idea why until a few seconds later when he saw Lino.

Lino is now back in  Manila working. It’s harder for him to train when he has shoots. But we text each other daily making plans to meet within the week. He joins me for a swim or a run. Some days, we lie around talking about my work, about his work, about my life and his life. About our dreams of watching my kids become world class athletes. In Boracay over the last weekend, we gave my girls a crash course in volleyball which was both our sport in college.4224_1169839050057_1350397913_473514_6090666_n

Other times we hang together reading our books and ignoring  each other. When he can, he comes over and cooks in my kitchen, eats and hangs with my kids. And we all go to church together.

Lino with my daughters Maxine and Nadine
Lino with my daughters Maxine and Nadine

 

 And yes, we train together whenever we can.

n.b. Ani, Joey and I are convincing him to join the Camsur 70.3. Easy for him to do once he sets his mind to it… and if he had a bike. He left his in New York.

My Mom, the wind beneath my wings

 

My mom, when she was in college
My mom, when she was in college

 

 

My mom grew up on a farm in Michigan. She met my dad when they were both studying in the University of Michigan. A few years later, she left the only country she knew and migrated to the Philippines, a country with a different culture, lacking in modern facilities that she was accustomed to, not knowing anyone from here except my dad and his parents.

 

My mom and dad in 1968
My mom and dad in 1968

 

I often wonder what it was like for her, a young 24  year old woman to leave for the unknown.  All she really had was my dad and me.

She was pretty much on her own most of the time. My dad worked long hours as a lawyer. It was just me and my mom most of the day. My life revolved around her.

She had a profound influence on me in my formative years. If I looked at my dad as the omnipotent being (translation: disciplinarian, law enforcer), my mom was omnipresent.

She took me everywhere she went – to her school, to the store, to the market, to her dressmaker and the salon. My childhood is replete  with memories of doing art work, reading and writing on the floor while my mom worked on her lesson plans and prepared her class materials. I don’t really remember being away from her.

Her demeanor, her kindness,  the way she talked, all of these things set my standard for dealing with people. If she ever got frustrated or lost her temper, she must have hidden it from me, because I really don’t recall any incident.

Looking back, she also set my standards as a working mom. As a preschool teacher, she spent her days either in her school or working on her school projects at home. My mom taught and later owned her own preschool. I was her student in Marymount in Quezon City, then JUSMAG school. Later, she put up her own school Ann Arbor School in Quezon Avenue where I also studied.  A few years later, she opened Ann Arbor Montessori in BF Homes. I spent many summers playing there and enjoying the Montessori materials.

For the first four and half years, I was her only child. Then my brother Alan was born, but I never felt a diminution in her attention or affection. Years later, my brothers Ren and Lino were born and that still did not change anything between my mom and I.

These days, it’s my turn to be a working mom.  And my mom? She is still a teacher and the consummate grandmother. She does not run a school anymore, but she devotes a good chunk of her time to my children.

When my first child, Maxie was born, she spent most of her day with my mom, while I worked. My mom would even take her to my office, so I could breastfeed her. Today, she spends a good number of hours a week with my younger daughter Nadine helping her with her school work. When I’m out of the country or just stuck at work, she takes them to the doctor, out for pizza, to  the book store or wherever they ask or need to be taken.

She is also a passionate writer of children’s books and to date has written hundreds of books, many of which she have given away to public schools.img_2759

My mom held my hand each day I lived thru my son Gabriel’s illness. She was strong, when I was weak. She was optimistic, when I saw no hope. When my dad got sick, she held us together. 

In my work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, we often discuss issues involving women in the labor force and the challenges women  face balancing their responsibilities as homemakers, caregivers and workers. One of the recommendations is for women to rely on their support system, such as extended families.

How grateful I truly am that I have my mom who has supported me thru the years, as a child and even now. 

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Women: The Unpaid Worker

All over the world, women perform unpaid work as homemakers and care-givers. Imagine this: Ms. A is a mother and takes care of her three kids and her elderly parents. She cannot work outside the home. Compare this to another woman, Ms. B who works outside her home. Ms. B cares for the children of another family. Ms. B is a paid worker for caring for other children. Her work is recognized. She will obtain benefits like medical insurance and retirement. Unlike Ms. A. who is invisible to the productive world, has no protection, no rights and benefits.

What can we do to uplift the plight of people, mostly women like Ms. A? This was the topic of the Inter Parliamentary Union’s conference, which I chaired at the United Nation’s last week. I summarized some of the key points of the speech I delivered at the session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Chairing the IPU-UN Session on Shared Responsibilities, March 4, 2009

We need to reduce the burden of unpaid work and promote equal sharing of responsibilities between men and women. Historically, women have been the homemakers and care-givers. But today, many women need or want to be part of the work force. This, men need to take on more responsibilities at home.

Many countries have ratified relevant labor conventions. But each country needs to review their national policies and legislation that relates to workers with family responsibilities, that recognize women as part of the labor force, that provide maternity protection, breast feeding support, reasonable hours of work, and so on.

In determining the right policies, we need to emphasis the importance of a gender balanced approach to care-giving (as opposed to focusing on the woman alone) and the need to develop measures to support a more active role of men in care-giving.

There needs to be a change in mind-set. Likewise, action needs to be taken to address gender stereotypes. This begins with education and promoting gender equality and addressing gender stereotypes in school curriculums and grassroots programs.

There also needs to be institutional changes, say in parliaments. We discussed the difficulties faced by women in politics. Parliament was historically a male only profession. Many of its traditions still endure, making it difficult for women to enter or survive (more on this in another blog).

We also noted that during time of economic uncertainty, governments may tend to reduce spending on social services. The consequences of this move would be tremendous. This would put more stress on an already over-burdened health and social services/welfare sector. Without reliable health care and social services, women again will bear the bigger burden “ a burden that will go unrecognized and unprotected.

Back in our respective parliaments, we need to look at the tools at our disposal to bring the value of unpaid care work to the fore. We need to question our national accounts systems, make use of time-use surveys and most importantly, use the national budgetary process to take into account the contribution of unpaid care work and provide support to those who perform it.

As an aside, I note that in the Philippines, there are a lot of families where the man is now the primary home-maker and care-giver. For more reason we need to address gender stereo-types. These stay-at-home dads, need the support and in many cases the training needed to be good home-maker and care-givers.

In conclusion, we need to to reassess how we view women’s unpaid work. We need to put in safeguards and protection for these women (and men). We need to recognize and reward women’s various contributions to the economy and promote a more gender balanced approach to the sharing of responsibilities.

n.b. this is part of a series of articles I am writing in connection with our observation of Womens month and the conferences/meetings I attended in New York.