40 @ 40

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By Janette Huang-Teves

Mom-About-Town

Saturday, May 4, 2013


"I'm not 40. I’m 18 with 22 years experience."

This statement cracked me up when I read it on the internet and I immediately shared it to my Facebook friends.

I used to think when I was in grade school that it would take forever for me to reach 40 years old. But, just last week, I reached this significant milestone myself. How does it feel? Well, I suggest you go back and read my first sentence again.

I may have traces of fine lines on my face and white strands of hair have started appearing from out of the blue. However, honestly, I still do feel young inside. I can remember details from my past as if it just happened yesterday.

Where did the time go? Let’s walk down memory lane as I share 40 random things about me spanning four decades (ugh…that sounds ooold!):
My nickname is Wowie. Most people call me by this name that they get surprised when they find out that my real name is Janette. As a baby, I was quite chubby that a family friend, Auntie Anita, called me “WOW….WIE!”. The name stuck and everyone started using it.

I am the middle child and only girl in the family. My two brothers’ names also start with the letter J and so does my dad’s. Janette is the female counterpart of John, the first name of my husband Gary, which means “God is gracious”.

In the late 1800s, my great great grandfather came to Davao and settled here, which makes me a 5th generation descendant. Indeed, for our family, life is here in Davao!

Growing up, my mom encouraged us to only speak Fookien and Tagalog (well, you know how it is in Davao, our mutated Tagalog version which is peppered with ‘lang, man, gani and gyud’) at home. For some weird reason, my brothers are quite fluent in speaking Bisaya while I’m not. I totally understand Bisaya but when I speak the language, my eldest daughter laughs at my accent.

I spent my preschool to high school days at a Davao-based Hijas De Jesus-run institution and received a loyalty award upon graduation. The person who influenced me the most during my school days was Mr. Feliciano Puno, our beloved and well-respected Prefect of Discipline, who instilled in me punctuality, community service and yes, discipline.

I still hang out with my childhood classmates until this day. Their names are Jen Jen, Pat Pat, Ban Ban, Dit Dit, May May, Cha Cha and An An. Notice the pattern? Of course, I also have friends with non-repetitive names.

When I was in 3rd grade, I was the first one in my batch to own a Swatch watch, which was a gift from Switzerland. My classmates teased me why I was wearing a black plastic watch that looked like a toy. Two years after, there was a Swatch craze in the Philippines.

My first Barbie was a 1982 edition Eskimo Barbie doll which my grandma gave me as a present from her Taiwan trip. Amazingly, my youngest daughter still plays with the doll to this day.

In Grade 4, I applied for a Barbie Fans’ Club card and was thrilled when Robert Stewart (a.k.a. Uncle Bob) of Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club, a popular children’s TV show, read my name on air.

Although I am Chinese, the subject that I disliked most in school was Math.

In grade school, I was rooting for Menudo and not Duran Duran. I even watched the Menudo concert in Manila during the summer of 1985. I was gaga over Robby Rosa and Menudo’s hit song “If You’re Not Here (By My Side).”

I am a Jack of all trades and master of none. I spent summer vacations learning swimming at Davao Beach Club, ballet at Locsin’s Ballet School, art at Learning Center of the Arts and piano at Fernandez Piano School. One summer during high school, I even enrolled in a Personality Development Course at Cora Doloroso Career Center in Manila.

My favorite childhood food which I enjoy until now are Cecil’s luglug and mocha cake with butter icing; Dencia’s lugaw and tokwa’t baboy; Harana’s longganisa and chicken barbeque; and Molave’s greaseless chicken.

One of the most anticipated moments in my grade school life was receiving monthly letters from my pen pals whom I got to know through the International Youth Service (IYS). IYS was an international pen friend organization which arranged foreign pen friends for children and teenagers between 10 and 20 years of age. I had long-time pen pals named Lisa from Canada and Heather from Germany. Aside from letters, they would occasionally send chocolates, stickers and even voice cassette tapes.

Although I have no biological sisters, I have what I call cou-sis (more than cousins, almost like sisters) like Lyn Lyn, Susan, Che and Achie Annette as well as the best sisters-in-law Pat, Maricel, Lerlen and Eileen. My ‘sisters’ rock!

I started traveling at age 11 and have been to 27 countries. I went to ¾ of these countries before I got married. Now, that we have kids, my husband and I also want to inculcate the love of travel on them as a way of broadening their minds and experiences.

I’m a Disneyland fan. I have visited the Disneyland theme parks in California, Japan, Paris and Hong Kong, except for Disneyworld in Orlando. During my recent trip to Japan, I was able to visit Tokyo DisneySea as well.

I learned to drive when I was in 4th year high school. I also had my first vehicular accident at that time while I was practicing with our family driver. As I was approaching our home’s driveway, I hit our poor and helpless coconut tree.

In college, I finished my course in three years because of the trimestral system. The name of my best friend in college was Jennifer Lopez. Yes, you read it right, my BFF is JLo! We were together every school day from freshman orientation until graduation.

My group’s thesis during college was a documentary entitled “Multiple Sclerosis: A Family Concern”. It won 3rd place in the prestigious Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video.

During my first job at a hotel in Manila, I was able to see Pope John Paul II riding his Popemobile as he passed by Roxas Boulevard. The well-loved pope was in the country for the 1995 World Youth Day. Unexplainable tears suddenly rolled down my face when I saw the pope in person. It was such a divine moment!

Other VIP guests whom I had the chance to meet when I worked at the hotel included World Wrestling Federation (WWF) stars Yokozuna, The Undertaker, Owen and Bret Hart, and even renowned jazz pianist Jim Chappell.

When I was working in Manila, our neighbors were my eldest cousin’s college barkada and good friend Richard Yap and his flight attendant-wife Melody. If their names sound familiar, that’s because they are now known in showbiz as ‘Papa and Mama Chen’. Richard is currently a major celebrity and has a phenomenal following as ‘Ser Chief’ from the hit TV show “Be Careful with My Heart”.

From being an impulsive buyer, I became a wise spender when I started earning my own income. To this day, I have a reputation in the family as a tightwad or “kuripot”.

I became a certified PADI Open Water Diver in 1995. My father and two brothers are licensed scuba divers as well. Incidentally, when my great great grandfather first arrived in the Philippines from China, he supposedly earned a living as a pearl diver in Sulu.

When I returned to Davao after working in Manila, I applied at the Davao City Tourism Operations Office. After my interview, I was considered for a staff-level plantilla position provided that I take the Civil Service Commission’s Career Service Professional Exam. The following day, without any preparation or review, I took the CSC’s Computer-Assisted Test (CAT) exam and thankfully, passed.

On my first day of work at the City Tourism Operations Office (CTOO), we welcomed former president Corazon Aquino at the Davao International Airport. In the course of my almost five years at the CTOO, I also met Philippine presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada and then vice president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

I was appointed as the City Tourism Officer when I was in my early 20s, making me the youngest city government division head at that time.

I got married at 27 years old after an almost 4-year relationship with my husband who was my first boyfriend.

During my first pregnancy, I arrived at the hospital at 4:30 a.m. and gave birth at 6:02 a.m. God has a purpose, after all, for my ‘child-bearing’ hips.

I became a full-time mom until my eldest daughter was 1.5 years old. On the other hand, with my second child, I went back to work after just one month. I am very hands-on with my kids in spite of my job and other commitments.

My weight ballooned to 40 pounds during my first pregnancy. However, I was more disciplined with the second pregnancy and only gained a manageable 25 pounds. Surprisingly, I was heavier during my high school days compared to my present weight, without any diet or exercise. Hopefully, I will still be as lucky in my 40s.

Every time I gave birth, my shoe size would increase by ½ inch. After the birth of my second child, I became a size 10. Fortunately, there are now shoe stores in Davao that carry big boats, este, shoes.

When I was in grade school, my parents were no-shows during Parents-Teachers Association activities, except for one time when my very shy dad attended a PTA homeroom meeting and was elected unanimously as the grade six homeroom president. I even remember telling my mom before, “When I have my own child, I will be active in the PTA”. I have been consistently involved with the Parents-Teachers Association of my kids’ school since my eldest was in preschool or a total of seven years.

I love photography. One of my electives in college was black and white photography where we learned how to process and develop B&W film in the dark room and print photos the old-fashioned way.

I never leave home without a camera because I like to document activities of my children, food, places, etc. as a personal journal.

My daily shoulder bag weighs an average of 5 pounds with my camera and other stuff that my children and I ‘might’ need. One time, I wanted to buy a black shoulder bag and my sis-in-law suggested jokingly, “Go to Samsonite. You need a luggage, not a bag!”

More than regular trips to the salon or shopping, my ultimate me time is a relaxing whole body massage by my trusted “suki” or a therapeutic foot massage at my go-to spa.

It was Sun.Star Davao editor-in-chief Stella Estremera who invited me to be a lifestyle columnist for this paper through e-mail. When she asked what topic I would be interested in writing, I suggested people, events and places from the perspective of a PTA mom. Thus, ‘Mom-About-Town’ was born.

Six years after, ‘Mom-About-Town’ is still a welcome break from my work at the family business and mommy duties. I am grateful that the column has been a creative avenue for me to express myself and grow as a person.
They say that 40 is the reflection-time number and I absolutely agree. Looking back, it has been a fantastic and blessed 40 years and by God’s grace, I look forward to the next 40 more.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 04, 2013.

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