Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Chinese Decision

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Chinese Decision

In 1985, having made the decision to stay in the country, we had offered to buy the house that we had been renting since 1980. It housed our studio as well, while we lived on the second floor that had two bedrooms, one for my husband John and myself, and the other for the children. The living room and a ground floor masters’ bedroom had been converted into photo studios, the library into an equipment room, and we shared the dining room and kitchen with the staff and clients.

When we informed our landlady, with whom we had become friends, that we were interested to purchase her house, she did not want to name a price. Instead, she wanted us to make an offer.

To help me arrive at a fair price to offer her, I decided to look around in the neighborhood to see how much properties were selling for. Then, one day, one of the real estate agents asked me to check out a house in San Lorenzo Village (or San Lo, for short), a first class gated subdivision right next to the Makati Central Business District. Although San Lo was a residential community, they were quite lax and allowed businesses to be established in some of the homes (as long as they didn’t build obviously business buildings). She assured me that San Lo prices were at par with Bautista’s, since Bautista was considered a commercial area.

My only intention for looking around was to get an idea of how much to offer for our house, but I was thrilled to think that there was a possibility that we could live in a nicer neighborhood.

True enough, I found a house in San Lo that met one of the most important specifications that my husband had set – that it must have a living room large enough to be used as a photo studio. I showed it to my husband and he gave his imprimatur. I liked it myself because it had a yard and was near the community park. I envisioned having my young children biking around in this safe neighborhood and making friends with other kids in the neighborhood – something they could not do on busy, noisy and traffic-dangerous Bautista Street.

Since I had a friend in the real estate business who lived in San Lo, I took her to the house to get her advise on how to negotiate with the owners. To my chagrin, she immediately said we should not get that house. I asked her why, and she said “Tumbok yan, and that’s malas” (“tumbok” is the Tagalog word for being at the intersecting point of two roads connecting like a T, and “malas” means to be capable of bringing misfortune). It was my first time to hear the word “tumbok” and I certainly did not believe in superstitions. I argued that my husband and I work very hard and can offset or overcome whatever “malas” the house would bring. “That may be true,” she said, “but many people believe that houses like this are ‘malas’ and if and when you need to upgrade, you would have a hard time selling this property.”

I went home frustrated that we could not push through with buying a house because it was “tumbok” and “malas.” I went to bed early, very disappointed and slightly depressed at seeing all my happy dreams and visions of this San Lo house going pffft, and at the thought of doing house hunting all over again.

All of sudden, a thought came to me that pulled me out of the pits. My inner voice was saying – “Why feel bad? In 1970 when you started the business, you had nothing and hardly any money, and today, you almost bought a house in an exclusive community in the city. You’ve come a long way, Harvey.” That thought was enough to perk me up, and I went downstairs to the studio to reassure my husband that I was feeling okay and not to worry about me.

I saw him working overtime in the studio with a Chinese client. We talked about the house and he (Felix Wu, formerly of Ajinomoto) said he would like to share a story with us of two businessmen – a Chinese and a Filipino.

Here was the story:

There were two entrepreneurs, one Filipino and one Chinese. They both had a “sari-sari” store (a humble variety store that sells, in retail, only small low-priced everyday items).

After a year, the Filipino used the profits of his store to buy himself a TV set. The Chinese man reinvests his money into the store, and turned his “sari-sari” store into a mini-grocery.

After the second year, the Filipino bought himself a second-hand car while the Chinese continued to commute using public transportation. He expanded his store, while the Filipino still had the same “sari-sari” store.

After the third year, the Filipino bought himself a house in BF Homes (a medium-level suburban subdivision) while the Chinaman continued to live in a tiny room above his store, which was by then, close to looking like a department store.

At this point, my husband butted in and said, “You see, the Chinese way is better,” to which I replied, “Better for the business but look at the two and see who is smiling.” It was easy for the three of us to reach the conclusion that the Chinese knew how to do business, while the Filipino knew how to enjoy life.

“Let’s have a Chinese decision,” John said. “Let’s offer to buy this house. After all, the studio is here, we won’t need to transfer, we might lose clients if we transferred, we won’t have to change business forms and stationary, etc.”

“Okay”, I said, “for now, we will have a Chinese decision, but I hope someday, we can enjoy a Filipino decision.”

We offered to buy the house, our offer was well received, and for the next 20 years, we lived and worked here, raised our children and grew our photography business, combining home and business as many Chinese families would. We continue to live our Chinese decision, while waiting for the opportunity to enjoy a Filipino decision.

Being with the clan, on your papa's side

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Being with the clan, on your papa's side
Just testing...unfinished... will try to start writing journal earlier so I have time to finish. Must try to write at least 15 minutes everyday.

Dear Sacha, Ching and John

Today, there were many reasons to come together and celebrate kinship.

In addition to three birthdays (Tito Ric will turn 72 on December 18; his grandsons, Ron Ron and Ranz have recently turned 17 and 5, respectively), we were celebrating a homecoming. Your cousin, Polen, is visiting from Australia with her husband Dennis and infant-son James.

Kathy, Papa and I came almost two hours late since we had to wait for your papa to finish photographing the Marian procession at Intramuros. When we arrived in San Juan, "everyone" was there. Tita Francy wore a pretty red Chinese blouse. Even at 60+, now that she has learned to dye her hair, she remains attractive.

There was a lot of food on the table, but the entire clan seems to prefer to feast only on Chinese lumpia. It was good, but not quite as good as the way Auntie Nica used to cook them.

Auntie Nica could not come to the party. She had a little accident this morning. Tito Jon (John Tan) was busy heating some water and told Auntie Nica to wait for him to assist her in coming out of her room. But I suppose she was eager to see if she could walk unassisted. She did manage to reach the living room. Unfortunately, she leaned on a plastic monobloc table which was not heavy or stable enough to carry her weight, and she fell to the floor. Fortunately, it was not a major fall, and she did not break any bones. She's 70+ and her bones are fragile, as fragile as her health, and her memory. Ate Opu was there but it was obvious she was worrying about Auntie Nica.

Tita Betsy came with Christine, Lexine and Nicole, who came with her husband (I remember his family name - Moro - but not his first name) and her infant daughter, Nikki.

Tita Nancy came with her twins, Charlie and Edward, and their respective spouses and children.

Jo An, Kuya Aboy's daughter, told us about how she "won" her visa to the U.K. When she first applied for a visa she was denied because the consul did not believe that she could afford the trip and that she would come back. She tried to explain her side but she said when she tried to explain, she was always being interrupted by the consul who would say "I don't believe you" or "that's not believable." Very irked, she argued with him, but he was the consul, and at the end of the interview, he announced that he was denying her a visa. But, fortunately for Jo An, British foreign service law required him to tell her that she could appeal her case by writing to the government in U.K. She did, and U.K. ruled in her favor.

She'll get her passport and visa on Monday, but she does not want to leave for England now because she does not want to be there in winter. She's requesting that she be allowed to arrive in April or May instead. I guess that's proof that she does not intend to stay there - she can't and won't stay in England during the cold months. She's still Pinoy.

to be continued...
posted by harveychua0208 at 11:44 PM

Sacha said...'m reading my mom's very first blog post. I wish she had started earlier. These are stories I would never have heard even if I had been there. How is it that a journal entry or a letter can feel more intimate than spoken conversation or actual presence?


December 6, 2004 6:22 AM

My Date with Carl Gustav Jung

Two weeks ago, I signed up for the four-day “Exploration of Self” workshop, which is based on the ideas of Carl Gustav Jung. The first day would coincide with my 61st birthday, and I thought, “how appropriate that I should give this as a gift to myself.”

But a day before the first day, I received a call from one of our biggest clients – asking us to quote for several projects that could take us a year to accomplish. On top of that, we needed to make a portfolio presentation to them as they have new people on their team.

I was torn between work and self. I gathered my staff – two photographers including my own daughter who now works as photographer-account executive, and a new management trainee. I discussed with them what client needed, and guided them through the discussion on how we would pitch for the project. They had a day to put together a portfolio of impressive color prints, write a persuasive cover letter and gather enough materials for an audiovisual presentation. I told them that I would not be there to work with them, to check their work, or to lead in presenting to client. I would be out of the office during those two crucial days, and I trusted them to do the job.

By the time my photographer-husband, John, heard about the scheduled meeting with client, the team I gathered was already working on all the materials that we needed to try to convince our client that we are the best company for the projects they have in mind. As expected, he plunged in, and offered to not only lead the group in preparing the materials for the pitch, but also to be there at the actual presentation.

Then, he turned to me and asked, “Will you be there?” I hesitated but said no. “Why not?,” he asked. “I’m attending a workshop.” “What workshop is that?” “It’s a Jung workshop – on self exploration.” Now, my husband has learned through the years that I believe in continuing education and attend classes on a variety of topics, some about business, some about creativity, or on writing, or knitting, pottery, relationships, successions in family businesses, or core energy – so it no longer surprises him when he hears me mention something or somebody unfamiliar. I don’t think he has ever heard of Carl Jung, although Sigmund Freud’s name would have rang a bell but would have elicited more questions as to why I would be in a workshop like that.

On my 61st birthday, I spent the first of a four-day workshop luxuriating in a wonderful self-journey. John loves to work and would not think birthdays are occasions for not working but for me, it was wonderful to be away from the stresses of work and business, and freed from guilt for not working on a regular workday. Since Jungian workshops are not an activity that many men appreciate, I am even more thankful for this gift of time from my husband.

In my next few blogs, I hope to share what I will learn from this workshop and how I hope understanding Carl Jung would help me understand myself and the people around me, including my own husband, who very generously respected my need for this journey on self-discovery.

If you want to know more about Carl Jung, here's what I picked up about him from Wikipedia:

Carl Jung - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jung's unique and broadly influential approach to psychology emphasized understanding the psyche through exploring the worlds of dreams, art, mythology, world religion and philosophy. Although he was a theoretical psychologist and practicing clinician for most of his life, much of his life's work was spent exploring other realms: Eastern vs. Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, sociology, as well as literature and the arts. Jung also emphasized the importance of balance and harmony. He cautioned that modern humans rely too heavily on science and logic and would benefit from integrating spirituality and appreciation of the unconscious realm. Jungian ideas are not typically included in curriculum of most major universities' psychology departments, but are occasionally explored in humanities departments.