The Little Half-Chick

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Do you remember the first time you went on stage to speak? I do and this is the story of my first time in public speaking.

It was a fine sunny afternoon at the school grounds, it was time for Physical Education. For us second graders this would be free play time with your classmates and friends where we are free to run around the school grounds playing tag, hide and seek, and other kinds of games.

That afternoon I was approached by my class adviser Ms. Mendoza, I am not really sure why or if I am in trouble again and will be calling up my parents later in the night.

“We are looking for someone to field in the inter-section story telling competition for the English week, would you like to join?” she asked.

Initially, I did not know what to say. For one, I haven’t been into any story telling competition, I am not sure if I can do it, and I have not set foot on stage to speak. I also thought of the possibilities (and somewhere there possibly inspiring someone in the class – if you know what I mean). So for some reason I said:

“Yes, I will do it”.

The following day at class, my adviser handed me the piece that I am going to recite. The piece is a children’s short story entitled “The Little Half-Chick” which I was asked to memorize. The story is about a half-chick who left home to see the king and along the way ignored the pleas and cry for help of the different elements, when the time comes that he needed help he was ignored.

When I came home that afternoon, I told mom and dad about me and being the most supportive and loving parents, we started the then difficult task of getting the whole story accurately in my head.

The next few days was all about reading the story back and forth between me and my dad, recording me on tape and playing back the recording so I would know where mistakes are. We did that repeatedly until the time that I have the story inside my head and I can recite it the best way possible. Dad said that if I win this competition, the reward would be a Happy Meal lunch before school at a local McDonald’s.

The day finally came, the entire grade-level assembled in the Gym/Auditorium of the school. I was nervously sitting in front of the assembly together with participants from the other sections. We were told that we will be called by the order of our sections, so which meant for me that I’ll be the second one in line for the stage.

The first participant got on the stage and recited the short story, knowing that I would be the next I was on my seat trying to focus on the task at hand. As the first participant finishes the story, I was called on to the side of the stage to be ready. The emcee then calls my name and invites me up to the stage. I looked intently on my batch and started reciting the short story.

“Once upon a time…”

I was able to recite the story well ending it with a bow and walked across the stage back into my seat. The subsequent participants were called and recited the piece. After that it was time to announce the winners.

After they handed out the first two medals, I thought to myself that there is no chance of me getting the next medal the remaining ones seated has to be better than me. Before I can think of anything else, I heard my name being called on stage for first runner-up. I was very happy at that point in time, my first ever medal I couldn’t be more proud.

I went home that day, excited to share the medal with my mom and dad. As dad promised, the following day we went to the local McDonald’s to get my happy meal just before school.

Drafts & Anecdotes is a collection of my short personal stories about the different experiences I have had over the past few years. I hope you enjoy reading my anecdotes and feel free to suggest any topic that you want me to write about next by dropping me a simple note.

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Noodle Smuggler

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I was fortunate enough to have a chance to travel early in my twenties. I was invited to attend a summit in the United States back in 2008 and while at it, I took the opportunity to visit relatives from my mother’s side two weeks prior in Vancouver, Canada – my first international destination. It was such an exciting time; I remember literally losing sleep days before because I cannot contain my excitement over the trip. Since this is the first time that I would be traveling from one country to another alone, I have made it a point that I understand all procedures involved including customs and immigration.

The day finally came, early in the afternoon my family dropped me off at the airport we said goodbyes and boarded my twelve-hour flight to Vancouver. The flight itself was uneventful; I ate, tried enjoying the movies on board, filled out the necessary forms, and got some little sleep. Being the Filipino that I am with me on this trip is a bag full of treats which included dried mangoes, cup noodles, and pastries to be given to my hosts.

Landing at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) is when things actually got real for me. I have to pinch myself to make sure that this is not just another dream. Since the flight landed late, it took some time for us to get to the gate and do our deplaning. Ahead of us are long lines at customs and immigration because there were many “jumbo-plane” flights deplaning at that point in time.

While on the line, I noticed this sign “Be aware and declare” which stipulates items that you should declare and what are the equivalent fines should you be caught smuggling items into Canada. I have mixed feelings, all food items should be declared, the fine is equivalent to what I have in my wallet at that time but on the other hand, I am sure (I think) that dried mangoes, cup noodles, and pastries are not on the CBSA prohibited items list. After some few moments of reflection, I decided to do the right thing – Declare. I checked the “Yes” box in the declaration form where it said “bringing food items into Canada”.

It was my turn to hand over my passport and forms to the immigration officer, he reviewed it and asked me the usual questions. He noticed that I said, “Yes” to “…food items into Canada”:

Customs and Immigration Officer: What are the food items that you are bringing?

Chester (trying to remember what is inside the bag): Some pastries, dried mango, and cup noodles

Customs and Immigration Officer: What kind of cup noodles? What is in it?

Chester (trying to explain what “La Paz Batchoy” is to the officer): We call it “La Paz Batchoy”, not sure what is in it but I think it contains some meat.

After that, the officer stamped my passport and has instructed me to go to quarantine for authorities to inspect the goods I am bringing in to Canada. At quarantine, another officer inspected the goods I am bringing in and tried to understand the ingredients of the “La Paz Batchoy” from the packaging. After careful inspection, I was told that I could not bring these into Canada and a half-box worth of “La Paz Batchoy” noodles were confiscated by the authorities.

That was the first lesson I learned in travel – Even if the meat flavoring is artificial, should not be brought in to any country that has meat import restrictions. After that, I was able to meet with my relatives, told them this story and enjoyed the rest of my stay abroad.