Max’s vocabulary highlights

Max thinking of words

Max is growing at a ridiculous rate, physically, mentally, and even emotionally (dude cried at the beginning of Up and it freaked us out). Among my favorite milestones of his growth is his rapidly developing vocabulary. Below are 11 of my favorite words that Max can now speak:

1. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “The Incredibles”—referring to the characters from the 2005 Pixar film, the film itself, its 2018 sequel, books that feature characters from the films, action figures of the characters, or just Mr. Incredible.

e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a Mr. Incredible action figure)

2. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Ball”—a ball. Any ball. But maybe not an American football.

e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at a ball)

3. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Bus”—a bus, coach, van, or any large public transport vehicle found on the road, including jeepneys. Pronunciation is usually accompanied by a “vroom vroom” or “bbbbbbrrrrbrbrbrbr”.

e.g. “Buh?! Brbbbrbbbrrrrbrbrbr.” (while looking out window of car, pointing at a bus, and then mimicking the turning of a steering wheel)

4. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Buzz Lightyear”—the character Buzz Lightyear from the 1995 Pixar film Toy Story, action figures of the character, pictures of the character, or any TV show, mini-movie, or film from the Toy Story universe.

e.g. “Buh!” (while pointing at Char’s iPad, requesting to watch Toy Story for the nth time)

5. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Book”—a book. Any book.

e.g. “Buh?” (while presenting a book to be read to him)

6. Buh
noun | \bə\
: “Button”—any belly button, or any pressing button (i.e. those found on toys, remote controls, and car stereos; not clothes buttons).

e.g. “Buh?” (while lifting his shirt and pointing at his belly button)

7. Babbuh
noun | \bä-bə\
: “Bubbles”—bubbles from a bubble blower, bubbles made from soap suds, bubbles from milk foam.

e.g. “BABBUH!” (while pointing at bottle of bubble fluid)

8. Bai
noun | \bī\
: “Goodbye”—bye, goodbye, farewell. Usually accompanied by a wave. 👋🏼

e.g. “Bai!” (while waving at a security guard as we exit a shopping mall)

9. Bee
noun | \bē\
: “Bird”—“any of a class of warm-blooded vertebrates distinguished by having the body more or less completely covered with feathers and the forelimbs modified as wings” (Merriam-Webster), or any image or video featuring such a creature.

e.g. “Bee!” (while pointing at a bird)

10. Bee
noun | \bē\
: “Bed”—any surface meant for humans to lie down on, or, pillows.

e.g. “Bee!” (while picking up and then tossing a pillow at me)

11. Beebee
noun | \bē-bē\
: “Baby”—an infant, toddler, child, or any non-adult human.

s.g. “Beebee!” (while running in a shopping mall alongside what appears to be a 9 year old boy, and pretending to be a part of their family)

(This post may be updated eventually. Bai.)


Teatro de Mikey de Squishy

At the parking lot, walking towards the Insular Life building, the venue of the final show of Rude Mechanicals’ and Tuloy Foundation’s rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar, I told my son: “Max, Papa used to call this place his battlefield.” I was thrilled—not only because I was going to watch a live performance in a theatre with my 17 month old that night, but because he was going to watch a show in the very same theatre I performed in for the first time as a professional actor.

Insular Life Theatre was my battlefield, and walking into it that night was as nostalgic an experience as I’ve ever had. The place looked the same. It smelled the same. And while it felt different since I was coming in as a spectator rather than a performer, all the old feelings stirred themselves up all too easily.

As we shimmied to our seats, I knew that Char was thinking of something else entirely. I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but tell Max about my very first performance, as Nick Bottom, in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I told him that I was scared and that my I was sipping short, shallow, and nervous breaths. My dear friend and co-actor Chino came up to me, rubbed my shoulder, and said: “Just enjoy it, brother.”  It could certainly have been condescending, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I wish I could’ve told Char something with the same effect to calm her nerves about Max. But if I told her to “just enjoy”, she would probably give me the evil eye. Instead, I assured her that if anything went wrong, I would simply take Max outside the theatre and walk around.

It turns out, though, that I didn’t need to. Max, like a trooper—like the most amazing trooper in the history of troopers—like, I dare say, a stormtrooper—sat through the entire first act. Like a cultured stormtrooper with his father’s theatre DNA. He sat and he watched, over pursed milk-ingesting lips, as Judas and Jesus and the Disciples and the Jews sang about God and their fates. And then at the end of Act One, he clapped and clapped, as if he knew what he was doing. I was so very proud.

During intermission, I carried him out and took him to the front of the stage. (He kept pointing there after the applause simmered down.) When we got there, he motioned that I place him on the stage itself. I told him that I can only put him there after the show, because the stage still belonged to the performers, and we must respect performers. Part of me felt like he understood, but he was probably just distracted by the audience milling about behind him. I couldn’t help but feel proud, though.

After the show, during company call, I took him to the stage, as promised. Max stood alongside proud and exhausted actors, and he looked delighted. And then the actors all crossed to stage right to listen to their director, and Max ran with them—this tiny baby, alongside dozens of happy sweaty actors. It looked like a happy Lion King stampede. I freaked out and jumped on stage and caught him, thanks to one of my friends who stopped Max, making sure he wouldn’t get Mufasa’d. And then Max became sad.

Maybe it was because he was prevented from doing something he enjoyed. Maybe it was because a stranger made physical contact him. I’m not sure. Part of me is worried that picking him up snuffed out a just-kindled desire for being onstage in front of an audience. But if this whole experience has taught us anything, it’s that I shouldn’t underestimate Max.

I can’t wait to be in a theatre with him again.

Breastfeeding: A real man’s perspective

It’s 2:00 AM one night. Max is tossing and turning. My left eye is half-open. I see that Max sits up in what seems like a drunken stupor. “Drunk Fu”, we call it. He looks like an old Shaolin Master trying to recover from a concussion. Or The Undertaker trying to get up from an F–5.

I pretend to be asleep (even though I practically am).

Char wakes up from her own half-sleep. It seems to be the only kind of sleep she gets these days. Max sees that she’s awake—“awake”—and snuggles up to her chest.

“Okay, okay,” my wife concedes. She picks him up, pulls up her shirt, and Max feeds.

I go back to sleep, relieved.

It’s 11:00 PM on another night. Char has just “tagged” me—it’s my turn to step in and watch the baby. She just finished breastfeeding Max, so she’s supposed to be done for the night. I carry Max and sing to him. Dear Theodosia. It’s Quiet Uptown. There’s a Little Wheel a-Turning in my Heart. Max struggles with his sleepiness. He loses, and falls asleep. I take quiet little steps to the bed, when suddenly, Max wakes up again. He looks at me, looks around, and then looks at his Momma, and lets out a cute little whimper.

Char gives me a blank, defeated stare. I smile, sheepishly. I let Max down on to the bed, and he turns and crawls swiftly into his mother’s arms.

I go to sleep, relieved.

It’s 10:30 last night. Max is asleep. I had dozed off without brushing my teeth. Eventually I couldn’t stand it, so I quietly slide off the bed, sneak to the bathroom, and I brush and I floss. I sneak back to my bedside and plug in my chargers. Then–smack— I accidentally tip over a bottle of Lavender and Peppermint linen spray.

The sound wakes up Char, and then slowly wakes up Max. Char destroys me with an optic blast gives me the evil eye. She picks up Max, and breastfeeds again, and then says, begrudgingly, that I should go to sleep.

So I do, relieved.

If I was asked what I think about when I think about breastfeeding, I would be lying if I didn’t first talk about the absolutely selfish relief I feel whenever Char has to breastfeed. Look, I try very hard to share responsibility with Char in caring, protecting, and raising Max. I am absolutely allergic to the thought of being a deadbeat Dad, or a lousy Father. It’s 2017: old ideas about stereotypical (read: irresponsible) manhood should be dead and buried. I believe real men should do chores, cook, wash dishes, and put babies to sleep. Real men should be able to—and be glad to—do anything and everything women can do for their families1. So, that’s what I try to do for Max—I should be able to do anything Char can do for him.

But I can’t breastfeed. Unfortunately, Max also absolutely prefers direct feeding over bottle or cup feeding: it’s the most foolproof way of putting him to sleep. If Max refuses to sleep in my arms, and he starts showing signs of wanting breastmilk2, really, what’s a man to do? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I have to admit that the relief extends to the fact that I literally can’t breastfeed. But I do hear from very excitable breastfeeding social circles that men can actually do it. There isn’t any scientific material, though—or at least, no guides or workshops or YouTube tutorials that can teach me how to do it. Of course, if such materials were in fact available, it would be my moral obligation to actually try to learn it so I can share in the responsibility along with my wife.

But those materials are not available3. I guess I can just go back to sleep, relieved.

  1. For the record, I believe women should be the same. ↩︎
  2. These days it’s a short whimper, and a yearning glance in his mom’s direction. ↩︎
  3. Please do not reply to this post with links to these materials ↩︎

Thinking about lost bugs



I love that you are my son; I love that my son is you. Because I am your father, I can promise you a few things: I will do everything to take care of you, and teach you life, and guide you towards wisdom and kindness and love. I promise to teach you to be a Man, and you will learn that being a Man means being a Person—who loves and who is kind and who has a strong backbone.

However, because you are my son, there are some things I cannot promise, and it hurts me so, because you are my son.

I will do everything I can so that you will be happy. But, try as I might, your happiness is ultimately, simply, not up to me. This breaks my heart, and I am so, so, sorry about this.

Your mom sent me that photo above, and I was darned near moved to tears. I am moved to tears, right now, as I write this while sitting in my office. In that photo, it looks like the characters in the story are talking about you. You, my happy, hungry, poopy, perfect little boy.

Indeed it is a tragedy to be clever and not happy. But it is also, as I have seen, far too common among the witty, the brilliant, the clever. And it tears me up that you might just be born into that tension.

Because of course I want you to be clever. But, dear God, above all, I want you to be happy. More than anything. This is a new desire, birthed in my heart the moment I saw you. And so your mother and I stay up late and wake up early and wipe off poop and clean up sheets, every day, because that is all we want: you, our son, happy and healthy.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet I cannot promise happiness. So all I can do is raise you, and guide you, and teach you to be clever. We will read to you, we will feed you, we will show you art. One day, you will read to others, and teach them to read; you will feed others, and you will teach them to feed themselves; you will make art, and you will make art with them. Maybe you will make others happy; maybe, dear God, you will be too.

For now, your mom and I will keep feeding you and wiping your poop.  And we will pray.

Thankfully, our God is a God who can dismantle binaries. The prayer of my life, Max, is that you will find joy and remain in it—and that you’ll be clever, too.


Happy right now
Clever sometimes



image.jpegYo, Squish. There’s something we have to tell you. It’s kind of a big deal. Your mom and I have been seriously talking about it for the past six months, but we’ve also been kind of talking about it for the past, what is it, four years? Yeah. Four years. In fact, your Lola has also been involved in our discussion. That’s how important it is.

You ready? Okay. Here:

Your name is Max. Not Macs. Not Macks. Max. Like Max’s Fried Chicken.

We don’t know what it’s short for yet. It most likely will be short for Maximus. But it also could be short for Maximilian.

(Yes, yes, Maximilian is harder to spell1. I’ve been telling your momma that. And yes, I agree, Maximus sounds pretty darned cool, especially since you will have the same name as the General of the Felix Legions, Commander of the Armies of the North, Loyal Servant to the True Emperor Marcus Aurelius, father to a murdered son, husband to murdered wife, and he will have his vengeance, in this life or the next2.)

Both Maximus and Maximilian mean (or are derived from a word which means) the same thing: Greatest. It’s the name whose truth makes the most sense to us, because you are the greatest thing to ever happen in our lives (well, besides our marriage). Max(imus). The Greatest.

But I have to make something very clear to you, buddy. In our hearts, you, Max, are the greatest. However, it is very important that you understand what greatness truly means. It does not mean that you are the more important than other humans3. It does not mean applause, or popularity, or wealth, or power4. It does not mean that you are entitled to anything.

True greatness means love. It means kindness. It means carrying yourself in a humble yet authentic manner. It means respecting others—others, meaning, not only those who are not you, but those who are not like you. It means using your voice, your talent, your abilities, at the right time, for the right things, for more than just yourself. It means loyalty and integrity and wisdom and courage—no matter who’s looking. It means checking your privilege—All. The. Time.

It means so much. Sometimes you will have no idea what it means. That’s okay. Greatness also means you can admit that. Sometimes that’s the only thing it can mean.

Greatness. Max(imus), son of Mikey, son of Char. The Greatest.

This is your name, Squishy. But you must know that greatness—your greatness—is really all up to you. Don’t worry, we’ll be here for as long as we can. And you have so, so much going for you.

We still don’t know what your second name is, though. It might be Conan5.

  1. Also, Lola thinks it sounds too fancy. Pretentiously so. ↩︎
  2. You are not named after him, though—your momma has made me promise. Repeatedly. Especially after I recite that speech, word for word, every time I say your name. ↩︎
  3. Even if you are super duper incredibly important to us! ↩︎
  4. Even if we will try our best to give this to you many times! ↩︎
  5. We’re also considering Elephant. As in, Maximus Elephant Llorin. ↩︎

The sacrifice of fatherhood


I often have visions of our little family unit doing the nerdy things that Char and I already do together. I picture us having Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (U.S.S.R.) Sundays together, with Squishy’s and my noses glued to comic books while Char reads Harry Potter for the 200th time. I picture the three of us snuggled up together in the couch watching a Star Wars marathon in preparation for Episode VIII. And, above all else, I see us watching live wrestling events together, disagreeing about whom to cheer and boo, but definitely having an incredibly good time.

In fact, Squishy already kind of watched wrestling with me and his mom just two months ago, during WrestleMania weekend. He seemed to enjoy Roman Reigns. (He’ll learn.)

Training our child in the way he should go in terms of geekdom is one of the things that Char and I are super excited about. In the process, we have been immersing ourselves even deeper into the things we geek out over. My impending fatherhood has opened up more exciting facets about my favorite things—I often pause my wrestling-watching now so that I can explain to Squishy who my favorites are, and why they’re good, and why, sometimes, his mom is wrong.

So you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that WWE is coming back to Manila for the first time in 9 years. And it looks like they’re bringing in the big guns, too—WWE Champ Roman Reigns, Sasha Banks, and Kevin motherfrickin’ Owens (my current favorite artistic performer of any kind) are prominently featured in the marketing material.

My heart raced as I scarfed down all the details I can. And then my heart screeched to a halt, turned around, and went home. WWE Manila is scheduled for September 9.

And Squishy’s estimated due date is September 8.

My mind raced (quickly past my sullen heart): Would it be possible to delay Squishy’s birth? Could a pregnant, any-day-now Char be willing to watch wrestling with me in a noisy, crowded venue? Would I be a bad human being if I left my wife and newborn child for a few hours so that I could watch my favorite artist?

Logic opened up my bedroom ceiling and her voice came crashing down on me: No, you idiot. No, you idiot. Yes, you idiot.

Squishy, one of my favorite things is coming to Manila for the first time in nine years. I will miss it completely, and it will totally be worth it. As much as I love wrestling, you are totally my hands-down, absolute favorite thing in the universe*.

And besides, the next time I’ll get to watch WWE live, you’ll be with me and your Momma, letting Roman Reigns know that he sucks.

* – next to your mom

Squishy Cakes 1

Hi Squishy. I am your Father. I hope you recognize my voice by now.

I can’t wait to meet you so I can tell you stories. My dad told me stories all the time. Whenever he did, it would always start off very excitingly. He would tell me about, say, his mom, or his sisters, or a story of something formative that happened in his early childhood. And I would be so intrigued. So excited. So he would keep going, and going, and going… and then I would find myself nodding at the appropriate moments, but not having any idea what he was talking about anymore—I had already dozed off!

I hope that never happens with you. I would like to think you would be a more attentive child than I ever was. And I would also like to think that I will be a much better storyteller than my dad was. I need to—if only to do justice to my dad, who will be the subject of many of my stories, including this one.

My dad was the kindest, gentlest, most selfless man that I ever knew. He was the greatest—not because he did great things on worldly level, but because he was kind. And he loved overflowingly. Me especially.

This one time, my family and I were out on a beach trip, and we rented this raft-boat thing. It was flat and made of bamboo, like a floating platform with a tiny structure in the middle that housed the engine. The raft took us to (what felt like) the middle of the sea so that we could dive into the water without fear of stepping on corals on the sea floor. When we got there, all of us got off so we could swim. Mom and I wore life vests. My dad, bad ass that he was, did not. My brothers didn’t wear vests either, but only so that they wouldn’t hurt themselves when they dove off of the raft. They would dive off over and over again—they’d push themselves up unto the raft, walk across to one side, and then run to our end before jumping as far as they could.

I envied them, so my dad let me dive too, except I had to keep my vest on. So I did. I took quick little kiddie steps and jumped off awkwardly on him. I did this three times, and it was a lot of fun, except the vest would hurt my underarms as soon as I landed. So my dad allowed me to take off the life vest (much to my mom’s chagrin), as long as I would dive into his arms each time.

It was the most exciting thing in the world.

I took off my life vest, and my dad pushed my fat butt unto the raft. The air was salty, the sun was gazing at us, and my skin glistened with sea water. It felt like the everyone was watching with bated breath (they were watching, but it was probably only mom’s breath that was bated). I ran off to the edge and jumped like a tiny Filipino Michael Jordan with short legs. It felt like I was in the air for minutes. And then I landed on my dad’s chest as he embraced me, to the applause of 20,000 people (or my mother). It was magnificent.

When the applause died down and my mom and the rest of the family saw that I hadn’t drowned or been eaten by a shark, they moved on and kept swimming or play fighting in the sea. But I was enraptured, drunk at the glory of flying through the air and splashing in sacred water. So I pushed myself up unto the raft, crossed to the other side, ran to the end and jumped off, once more, into the sky, like a radiant eagle. And then I landed, once more, into the sea, into my dad’s chest.

Except he didn’t know that I was going to dive, so he couldn’t catch me. And I sank. My eyes were still open underwater. I could see my dad’s belly as I was swallowing sea water, sinking to my certain death.

Then my dad pulled me back up. I coughed out the sea water death juice. I yelled at my dad for not catching me. He said I didn’t warn him that I would jump. My mom freaked out her last freak out of the day, and said “No more na.”

On the raft ride back to the shore, I was very, very angry with both of them.

Squishy, there will be times that you will be very angry with me and your mom because we made a decision that you don’t agree with, or simply don’t like. When this happens I want you to remember this: We are your parents, and we love you overflowingly, as my Father loved me (though your mom and I love each other more!). We promise that we will, never, ever, ever, ever, willingly allow you to sink and swallow sea water death juice, or get eaten by sharks.

Literally, all the time, and figuratively, most of the time.


Mikhail, father of Squishy, son of Irineo Junior.