Thursday, December 30, 2004

Krismas in da Pilipins

Although my vacation started on the wrong foot, my skill at tuning-out bad experiences has so far made my vacation a great one. Hay naku, don’t ask me what has made me so pissed. Basta lang, I have sworn (AGAIN, for the uphteenth time) na I will never offer to help a friend again – kahit na saan. Kasi if I’m not napapahamak, I always end up regretting offering a helping hand in the end. Again, the M.O. is right: it was NOT worth it.


Home

Christmas at my parent’s house started soon as the decorations were put up. And that is often right after the fiesta of the La Nuestra Senora dela Porta Vaga, the patron saint of our city. That is celebrated every second Sunday of November.


Lanzones, Mangga at Kastanas

For Noche Buena, the turkey siempre (per tradition it is badluck to served anything with wings on New Year’s kaya the turkey always finds it way on the dinner table on Christmas) is roastng in the oven as early as 7PM. This year, we opened our gifts early (11PM), making sure Gabrielle was still up and alert. As she tore off wrappers and opened her (and our) gifts, two month old Liam quietly napped.

Matthias, from work, had taught me how to make gluhwein or spiced mulled wine in New York, and I tried it at home. Francis found the cloves too strong so he enjoyed my daughter’s vodka sprite concoction more.

The fascinating tradition of ‘pamamasko’ has the godchildren visiting their godparents at home to claim their gifts, usually money. In the previous years, we’ve had the experience of literally being swamped with tens of children with arms stretched asking for their ‘gift’ or pamasko. Not just kids, really, as it is the same with the trash collector, the newspaper delivery boy and the postman who all expect something. One time a bunch of cops came to the house with their sirens on as a prank to my dad, a former politician. My mom and I nearly had a heart attack, of course. Maybe I am stingy but this tradition of pressured gift-giving I find in bad taste. I mean, I give gifts or cards to people who I feel deserve it. I have a Christmas list that changes yearly, some people get added on and some get scratched off. I refuse to give anything to anyone I feel doesn’t deserve it. More so the people, even children, who I do not know nor talk to 364 days of the year!


Ensaladang Mangga, Sisig and Taal Volcano

After Christmas, we went up to Tagaytay and had lunch at Dencio’s. We feasted on tuna belly, sisig, bulalo soup, pinakbet, iba-ibang sinugba and calamares. Afterwards, we headed for Gourmet Coffee Restaurant and had Gabrielle run around on the wide grassy lawn. My niece, the major kikay of the family, has a habit of kissing and hugging boys her height regardless if she knows them or not. Nicole caught this picture.



Today we went to Pricemart to do more grocery shopping for New Year’s. It is a Cosco-style wholesale supermarket with even some Kirkland brands on the shelves. Let me remind you again, if you’re going home to the Philippines that you can forget about those trademark ‘balikbayan’ boxes and save yourself the trouble of lugging those heavy cargo with you. Aside from the fact that it is soooo baduy, it is inconvenient! Everything, and I mean, EVERYTHING that you can buy in the US is here and sometimes even cheaper. Just bring your cash. Name it and it is here: spam or any other canned goods that get stuffed into those boxes (malay ko!), chocolates (Hershey’s, Lindt, Cadbury, Toblerone, etc.), perfumes, cosmetics, sneakers, clothes. Trust me, I am the girl who travels light and never with regret. This year I actually brought with me some giant Toblerone bars only to find the same in SM on sale – buset!

New Year’s is special here. Major production yan in the kitchen because tradition dictates there SHOULD be a lot of food to welcome the year so you’d be prosperous including our family’s traditional ‘calandracas’ soup. We always have fireworks and firecrackers (yes, and we have all of them in front of our house). New Year’s in my country is always celebrated with a bang, literally. At the strike of midnight, as Dennis and I used to describe it, you’d feel you were in a warzone with the loud pops of firecrackers and the whistles and bursts of fireworks in the sky.

The part I love most is when my family and I greet and wish each other good luck with hugs and kisses. I have a wonderful family. Not perfect but one that appreciates, loves and values each other. This is the reason I always find my way home during the holidays. A call from New York is just not enough. I love sitting around chit chatting with my mom, laughing at my dad’s stories and pestering Nicole when she is in a brooding mood. I love that Gabrielle can call me “Tita Mavic” and that I can carry Liam in my arms and have him smile back at me when I talk to him.

Happy New Year’s to all!


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Home Sweet Home

The final two weeks winding to my trip home had been hectic. I had to shop for stuff to bring home, see friends to say goodbye and wish them well for the holidays and then help put together our office Christmas party. I was lost in the flurry of activities that I didn't really get to pack untill the last minute. And since the office party was the night before, I had barely 4 hours of sleep when I headed for JFK for my flight.

It was a fifteen hour, twenty minute trip from JFK to Hong Kong and because I was a good one week early from the exodus home, the plane wasn't full. Unlike last year when I was able to score good cheap tickets for business seats, my agent this year wasn't as resourceful and so ended up having no choice but to fly economy. My only consolation should have been that I was also getting the seat next to me to myself until I had to give it up to a man whose TV monitor in his seat wasn't working.

Passing through Siberia on the way to Hong Kong

At the Hong Kong airport I was able to shower and freshen up before the final leg of the trip which was a quick 2 hours. As the plane descended into Manila, the lights in the cabin were dimmed so that when the passangers looked out the windows, the astonishing sight of a city's modern skyscapers and lighted thoroughfares flowing with traffic was in clear view. Definitely, Manila. And definitely, I was home.

The clearance through immigration was fast but it was the retrieval of checked in luggage that took ages. As we had been warned on-board, bags were passed through x-ray machines before they were released and so delays were anticipated.

My parents and my daughter were on hand to meet me and it was a surprise as when I left New York, Francis and I agreed that it would just be him to fetch me so that the parents could rest at home. My dad, he later told me, refused to stay home and wait and so the last minute change of plans.
I have a lot of things lined up for the long holidays at home. This year I will be seeing more friends than I did last year. I have contacted Lizza and Allen, Vicky, Dado, Mayet and my former boss Rose to set up lunch or dinner with them. Ana, of course will come visit with her girls after the New Year's.

On Saturday morning, I arranged to have breakfast with Lizza and Jai and met up with them at the Starbucks at Greenbelt, a short walk from the condo unit where I was staying at the BSA Tower. Nicole joined us in the reminiscing and the updating and in the midst of our giggles we must have caught one Starbucks client's attention. Lo and behold and it was Camille, the daughter of one of our previous boss, LDJ. She recognized Lizza but she didn't expect to see me in Makati realizing I was already based in NY. She sat down with us briefly and I was so proud to see how she had matured to be a beautiful and spendid woman who is the manager of a restaurant in the area. I couldn't seem to get over the fact that she was once the little girl in high school who during office workshops would stay in my bedroom instead of her parents because it was more 'cool' to be with Remy and I.
Eagle's View of the Greenbelt Mall

A mall in the park
The traffic as expected is horrible. The perfect decision had been to stay within walking distance from the mall so that there was rarely a need to drive or cab to get anywhere. And Greenbelt mall, right across from where I was staying was a mall in the park. Lush greenery surrounded it and it was a perfect balance of modern architecture and efficient lay-outing of stores and restaurants.

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Infamous Manila traffic

New York is a great place to live in but this place, I reaized will always be home to me, even if I will only be more of a visitor now than a resident.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Apprentices

I had the chance to watch Donald Trump last night when he gave a sort of summary of how his search for his new 'Apprentice' has progressed. Much as it had been one of the most watched shows on TV, I haven't really had a chance to sit and watch the show though once in a while I have had the TV on and I would glance at it now and then from whatever else I am doing.

Last night, because it was shown right before the only show I ever really watch, The West Wing, I feel like I had just been given a refresher course on the season's progress.

Donald Trump explained how he had eliminated each week's victim from running for a seat to manage one of his companies. He has many reasons and what is amazing is that to some of those he had given pink slips he had noted that he found them to be very intelligent and very business-savvy and even notes that he is confident that they would be successful in life. So why they fired them? I guess probably because there is a rule that there has to be one (or two, in one episode) who have to be scratched off the list weekly.

Correct me if I am wrong but the competition amongst these people who are forced into situations where they have to work with each other is fierce, almost deadly. I have never seen people openly backstabbing each other or shoving the blame to someone else through lies or schemes. The bickerings are endless especially in the boardroom where deliberations for the eliminations take place.

My stress level increases just watching the show (the only episode I have actually really seen, if I have to emphasize again). I have talked with the M.O. and we are both in the opinion that most of what we were watching were probably scripted but still, I can't seem to help but be affected by it. I mean, I try to put myself into the shoes of any one of them and I feel like a rat in a lab experiment trying to make it through survival tests.

And that is probably what the show's whole message is. That is you put highly competitive people who are all pushing and shoving each other to be the lone winner, you get fierce and dirty competition.

This is TV. Reality TV they call it. I can just hope that my reality doesn't reflect this kind of daily work environment.

I have always said that sometimes it is not the pay or the kind of work or the kind of importance you get from the things you do from 9 to 5. What makes it worth your while is the people you work with. When you spend a majority of your waking hours in an environment where you feel you always have to watch your back for that backstabber or when someone is constantly trying to create a divisive workspace and builds suspicious relationships among colleagues then it is hell.

For TV such a work situation might appeal to those who can relate to it. In real life, I think it is poison.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Matthew

Matthew is the epitome of the single male Manhattanite - young at 31, a successful stock broker at Wall Street, tall at 6'3" and very goodlooking. A former football player at the university, he maintains his athletic build by running with his dog at the park and working out regularly at the gym. He stands out in a crowd because of his charisma. He has an sarcastic kind of humour that is also very endearing, not at all coming on as a show-off.

Like the regular Manhattanite, Matt can't figure out why he can't find a girlfriend. His standards aren't by any means impossible. Just a girl who isn't emotionally unstable, someone who is capable of regular conversation.... a regular girl. "Tell me, where can I find a woman who doesn't turn psycho on me at a moment when I least expect it."

His call at the end of the day was a pleasant surprise. It had been a while since we had talked to each other. So instead of heading to the gym, I found myself at Penang Grill on East 84th enjoying spicy curry with him.

I had been privy to his seemingly eternal search for the 'ideal girl'. He has sought for her online (a perfect breeding ground for freaks and rejects), at the bar (where the one-nighters-only thrive), through friends (how we met) and through the recommendation of friends and co-workers (somehow fruitful but still...). No girl still that he finds himself comfortable with. Maybe his standards are too high? He shrugs. Sometimes he doesn't know anymore. Are the normal regular girls becoming a rare breed?

He says he has gotten tired seeking. My advise: stop looking, you'll bump into her when you least expect it. For the meantime, enjoy the ones that come along your way - without the emotional and psychological baggages.

"THAT'S RARE! It's hard," he chuckles, "sometimes its just a waste of time and effort and you can only take it so far without thinking of yourself as the other fool in the party of two."

Our analyses of the city girls he has dated continued until it was time to go. Has the city girl become so obsessed with successful careers that they have forgotten how to be girls? Have they experienced too much trauma in the dating game that they evolved into guarded wounded souls unwilling to love and be loved?

Matthew is a good catch, if someone could ever qualify for that label. As I sit across from him and his light brown eyes reflect the flicker of the candle on our table and light his face I can't help but wonder why he is in the predicament that he is in. The conversation with him is hardly boring. He is very animated, very funny, very intelligent. We share common interests - Sponge Bob Square Pants and The Incredibles.

Someone's loss, my gain - at least until red bean ice cream is served.

Anyone want a date with him? Email me your resumes. I will do the eliminations.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Turkey Day

This week the US celebrates Thanksgiving. This would be my 3rd Thanksgiving here in New York and I still cannot seem to be able to relate. A turkey in the oven for me pretty much defines Christmas. Back home in Manila, we'd get the turkey as early as well, Thanksgiving and then the big bird would become for a while a permanent fixture in the freezer. And since I am an ice muncher, everytime I get icecubes (we do not have that icecube-dispenser-on-the-door kind of ref back home) the bird and I would sort of bond. Sometimes when I'd go home late at night and everyone else is in bed, it's nice to talk to the frozen bird about my day while I am prying icecubes from the tray.

"Hello, bird, I got caught in traffic today. Terrible mess on the Coastal Road. Someone was 'salvaged' (summarily executed...murdered!) and so someone who'd probably end up in some medical university's surgery class cutting table lay dead on the side of the road and messed up traffic."

Sometimes it would be, "what do you think of the way this country is being run, bird? Speak up or forever hold your silence."

An unopinionated bird is a pleasure to have as company. It can never be disagreeable. It never gets under your skin for either being too right, too left, or too middle of the road to get run over. It just sits there in the cold and listens, or pretends to. Until you shut the freezer door and move on to less important things.

The value of sharing a special day with people who matter most is evident with the fact that Thanksgiving is the
biggest day for travelling in this country. The travel during the long weekend is marked by an increase of 54% compared to Christmas/New Year's (up only by 23%). In the Philippines, the exodus of people happens several times a year but nothing comparable to Semana Santa (Holy Week) because it's a 5-day weekend starting Holy Wednesday (unless Holy Wednesday falls on a Thursday which has not yet happened but if it did then it'd just be a 4-day weekend). In far second would be All Saint's Day where people go to the cemeteries to visit the grave of loved ones, some not necessarily saints and then Christmas.
I wonder though, if the message and significance of Thanksgiving is ever fully appreciated, if at all comprehended. My amazement is about how people could pause to reflect and give gratitude for their blessings only once a year. I go to mass every Sunday and give thanks for the blessings for the week. To mark the end of every day, I recall the wonderful things that I have had during the day and utter 'thanks' in a silent prayer just before I shut my eyes. To wait one year seem anti-climactic. For the obsessive compulsive like myself then that would mean bringing another notebook listing down things to be grateful for for Thanksgiving Year ####. Probably why some people tend to take for granted the good things that come their way... it takes them a while to be happy for them that they forget.

I was suppose to travel to San Francisco to be with relatives but cancelled at the last minute. Instead, I planned about staying home in my toasty apartment and packing for my travel home to Manila for the holidays. I will be having a peking duck with my aunt for lunch on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. On top of so many blessings, I will be most grateful for the gift of my beautiful daughter Nicole who will also be celebrating her birthday (November 25th).

No turkey until Christmas for me, which is the way it had always been, and no Spock (Gigi's silky terrier and perennial turkey fan) running around begging for his share. On Friday I will leave with my friends for Boston, a trip we decided on today, Tuesday while sitting around in the office shooting IM's back and forth. When we return, I'm dressing up the office for the holidays and organizing the company Christmas party. Then I will be homeward bound.
Let me share with you a favorite quote from an anonymous writer:
Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don't know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary
Because it means you've made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Tragedy of Alfred Elkins

He believes that the most beautiful women are in New York City. And like the hovering guest over a sumptious buffet, he must have a taste of each and everyone to savor the variety. Holding off for marriage with the hope that someone else who is better will come along, in his words.

The all too familiar Manhattan-speak. I am single and there are over 2 million single eligible men in New York City. I have met and mingled with a lot (about .001% of them. Correction by the M.O. - .000001 lang daw). It is much more entertaining and frustrating than life changing. It is like shuffing around musical chairs. At times you just want the music to stop.

Most of my friends are also single. Some have found love and have let it pass each time, unwilling and hesitating to commit. Some connecting with someone but with neck craned high seeking for other possibilities to come along. Often, the majority are in search of love with the ultimate desire to commit but it seems not really knowing what they are seeking for.

"It is not like going out and seeking and eventually finding the right person. Each and everyone has their cracks and faults. It's a matter of if you can live with the imperfections or not" I had been told. And he also noted the frustration of meeting a woman who is almost perfect only to realize later on that the first two weeks had been a show.

True, I agree, when dating, do not rely on what you discover on the first 10 dates (and I mean it). Men, and admittedly women, make themselves PERFECT at this stage. Thereafter when the guards are down that you start to discover the real person. And it is not always a pretty picture.

"Find someone to love and live everyday as if it's your last," Alfred Elkins quotes.

Easier said than done. I ran the treadmill with the M.O. the other night and I asked him if he thought I had become too jaded. He laughed and confirmed my suspicions. At this stage in my life I suppose that fairytales hold no more credibility, as they always turn out to be some psycho suspense thriller in the end.

"It's not about being jaded, really," I tried to defend myself, "it's about knowing that everything is superficial".

I am jaded.

In the end, I also surmised that most people get married because they just get tired of the chase. They find someone and think it is workable and sustainable in the long-term projection (financial and emotional) and then sign on the dotted line. "I do".

It's a partnership. A business deal. Romance? Pffffftttttt............

I will get married, I know I will. Maybe sooner than later. But I wonder if my reasons for doing so would be reasons that would still make sense when I am old and gray. I cannot say my life so far had been a breeze. The errors I have made I try to make live-able if I am not about to purge them into selective amnesia. Marriage is a big step and there is no turning back. I am hoping not to be considering dissolution/divorce/annulment anywhere in my future.

How sad to marry and realize that you had served yourself misery. How lonely to be with someone you share no dreams with, feel nothing for and have only the daily routines of life to deal with.

Don't people marry for love anymore? And stay married because of love? Do we know what love is, anyways, even if it hit us on the head? Barbara 'Tweetums' Gonzales asks, how do you know if your pearls are real? When you drop them in vinegar and they melt then they are real; but your pearls are gone. Maybe real pearls do not melt in vinegar but you get the message.

Alfred Elkins had found love many times but did not recognize it. When he was ready to commit, there was no one who had stayed long enough for his awakening. I can relate to his search, I can understand the need to enjoy as much as possible the highs of a new love. I also fear that I might end up with the same sad tale of having lost what would have been real. I fear more that I might make the wrong choice and realize that the deal does not come with a refund/return policy.

So what's it all about, really?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Fall Back Blabber

My blog doesn't get a million hits a day but it has its share. The gaps between the entries lately is very telling of my suddenly hectic lifestyle registering itself so. I have tried many times to open the blogger account, log on and get into the 'create' screen. Unfortunately it doesn't progress much beyond that.

It is not because of lack of inspiration or the lack of something to write about. Living in New York City and my life specifically has a lot of stuff in it worth writing, trust me. It is the time to sit down and get things organized in my head that has become impossible. As I sit in the subway I get to observe the daily rituals of people; the more intimate interaction between couples on their way to their destinations and kissing on the platform as they take separate paths; the detached and those who live in their own world, immersed in their music with their ipods or the fantasies of their mind in books they read rarely blinking. And then there are those whose souls had been siphoned by the devil and who leers and sneers at anyone who would care to listen.

A few weeks back we had "fall back" - gained an extra hour and returned to Eastern Standard Time. It has been insignificant, much as I did sleep get to sleep an extra hour on the first day, a Sunday. That of course is hard to gauge since I often get up late on a Sunday anyway. And late, being 8AM since I have to do my laundry or clean my apartment before I head out the door for my Sunday mass at noon.

In anticipation of "fall back" I hoped to do more, but how much more is more? I wake at 7, get in the shower and is on the train to work and am greeting everyone good morning by 8:30AM. Phone calls, meetings, letters, emails and some personal stuff make up most of the day. By lunch I am either meeting up with friends or Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I rush to my one hour Spanish class. I return to work, rush about to finish as much as I can before the end of the day. End of the day technically should be 5:30PM but sometimes the banter or the work keep us in the office way past that. I don't mind, I enjoy my work and the people I work with. I've said that once and it is without hesitation that I will state that again. I enjoy my work and the people I spend most of my day with.

The "fall back" brings darkness to the city by 6PM. I leave work, get to the gym and try to sweat a workout for an hour and then I'm home. Sometimes it is a night out with friends who keeps the sanity intact for the single girl in the city sans the sex. Sometimes it is just home early to crash in front of the computer and attempt to reply to accumulated unanswered emails. Tonight, I get distracted with The West Wing, the only TV show I ever really watch. Amazingly, I still came up with an entry for the blog.

A note to self: should take it easy - not good to NOT smell the roses; mars the child-like self. distracts the soul; takes away the music to life. So not so good.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Lessons from the Bo-Sox

Not since 1918 has the Boston Red Sox ever tasted the glory of a World Series win. Not since the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919. (read more on The Curse of the Bambino).

I am more of a Jeter fan than a Yankee fan. I did not sit to watch any of the Yankees game until the player they call Mr. Good Guy joined the team in 1995. Since then, I have rooted and cheered for the New York team and have seen them through several World Series championships. I have also seen some of the better players traded off to other teams in exchange for newer players. I have seen this enterprise grow in terms of salaries and egos. Regardless, the Yankees have stayed a force to contend with in the American baseball league.

This short essay, however, is not about the Yankees. It is about that other team whose numbers in terms of budget for player salaries is almost as bloated as that of the Yankees but who has hurdled time and time again to grasping that much elusive championship. Until World Series 2004.

It is so much easier to make a winner out of one who has the motivation to win. The players admit that it is the desperation in the faces of the fans that had pushed them to play their very best, and win. Victory is sweeter to the one who had gambled and risked limb and life for the title. The image of Curt Shilling's bleeding ankle while he is on the mound hs been flashed on TV over and over, emphasizing the long and difficult road that their battle has taken to the win.

I have seen many people who failed in their endeavors simply because they believed they will. Those who have had the will to believe that they will win often prevailed, a case of mind over matter.

This is the way my mom had taught us - Francis, Gigi and I about life, about making our dreams come true and of huddling the challenges life hurls our way. This is the mantra I hope I had passed on to Nicole - as the tennis player, the honor student, the gold medalist orator, the writer for the school paper, the certified nerd and the daughter who makes me proud to be her mom.

Hard work and determination have always been the key to success. Just as the faith that you can overcome fate and that destiny can be turned to your favor. And a lunar eclipse just before the final inning doesn't hurt as well.

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, from the New York Yankee fan.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Como se dice?

How do you say 'happy birthday' to a dear friend who makes you laugh in the mornings when he is in a good mood? How do you express gratitude to someone who trusts you with his dreams and who gives you the motivation to pursue perfection in an endeavor that not many believed in? How do you tell someone that friendship survives despite distance - through email, chat, phone call or SMS because he gives you the faith that it is worth every effort?

Simply HAPPY BIRTHDAY, I guess, to my favorite Italian.

from New York to Skopje to New York...

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Making Strides for Breast Cancer

It is Sunday and 45 degrees outside (and windy!) so who wants to get out of a nice warm bed surrounded by 6 pillows and a nice fluffy feather blanket? Me, of course, with the resolve to join the ACS Breast Cancer Walk!


The registration area at East 97th Street

I met up with my team at about 930AM and then we took the 5 mile walk from the starting line at the East Meadow on East 97th Street, went down to 79th street at Central Park West then uptown to 110th Street and then crosstown to the finish line which was where we started.

Along the route were cheerers who shouted the walkers on and rooted for the many teams that joined the walk. Some handed out bottles of water though what we really needed was hot cups of tea/coffee because it was cold!

It was a short 5 mile because you had so many people to chat with. The friends who had gone with me the previous years weren't able to join but there were more to meet. We walked behind, in front and beside the blue flag of the team which changed hands about 10 times during the course.

Towards the last quarter of the final mile more people lined the side of the route and the cheers were louder. A sign brought laughter to everyone: FREE FOOT MASSAGE AHEAD (just kidding!).

One male teenager had the most memorable cheer of course as he shouted it out with much enthusiasm: God bless women's breast!

Heading Home

Ludette sent me this link last week. Let me tell you this is probably one of the more effective marketing promotion for Philippines tourism. I saw the clip and immediately felt the excitement of my travel home in time for the holidays. The beat of the music is not at all 'imported', it actually reminds me of the music of Mindanao.

Click on the ink below. It'll open your windows media player. It might take a while to upload but I will tell you it is worth it. Makita-kita na ba tayo sa Manila sa Disyembre?

http://www.tourism.gov.ph/media_source/byahetayo.wmv

And then these are pics from my visit in 2003:


Mt. Pinatubo


Greenbelt in Makati


Fruit Stand along Highway in Tagaytay


Houses on Stilts


Taal Volcano and Lake

Friday, October 15, 2004

Friday Night at Home

It's been a while since I stayed home on a Friday. When my parents were here I quit social life temporarily, opting to mingle and mix only with relatives who were visiting to see them or friends at work and even that, confined it to a 9 to 5 thing. Either see me at lunch or postpone it til after they have left.

Tonight is a Friday. I am home. I have chosen to be home, alone and planned on sulking. I did my laundry (AARRGGHH!!!!!!!!) earlier and I now have clean clothes neatly stacked and hung in my closet. A friend dropped by to finish the menudo my mom cooked and the pan de sal leftover from the breakfast I brought to work yesterday for Renee and Wally. He helped me move my furniture around some more (because he couldn't see the TV from the sofa) and then went home because I told him I wanted to be alone to sulk more effectively. On the way out he warned me I only had until the end of the weekend to sulk and then he wasn't allowing it anymore. I hate it when friends care too much. It gets way too mushy when I'm vulnerable.

I also discovered something. It is a myth that ALL New Yorkers go out on a Friday. I can audibly confirm that my neighbor upstairs is home. I can hear her very heavy footsteps pacing the floor all night. As I was finishing my chore in the laundry room in my basement, another lady has just started to do her own load. I know her by face, and know she lives on the 4th floor. But we know each other only as much as we are familiar with the rest of the residents of the building. The couple a few doors from me are cooking something delicious and the aroma of the tomatoes cooking fills the corridors and their muffled voice can be heard when you pass their door.

It is 1030PM and I really have nothing planned for the night. I think I will sit around and browse the internet until it is time for Dave Letterman. Maybe tonight he will spoof again Bush's bulge on his back. What do you think the boxy bulge is?

I will probably attempt to finally catch up on my unread emails (98 in my yahoo mailbox and if I didn't reply to you yet then maybe yours is still unread). Maybe I will send a note to some friends to catch up. My friend Allen is in San Francisco and she called last night for a chit chat. I still owe her another call for a longer chismisan.

Friday night at home in my silk jammies and munching on grapes. Not as bad as I thought it would be. I even have more clean clothes in my closet. Not bad at all.

PERSONAL NOTE:

On Sunday I will join the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Walk at Central Park. This is the 3rd year I will be doing this and I think I have made this my personal crusade. I encourage you to join any breast cancer walks in your city or if you can't, to send a check to the ACS. Any amount, big or small will benefit the research for the disease. It just might benefit someone you know - a mom, a sister, a child, an aunt, friend or neighbor.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Alone Again, Naturally

Prior to their arrival, I agonized about how my parents could possibly enjoy staying with me in my Manhattan apartment. I worried so much I had stress related acne and weight gain (yeah, blame it on stress). I have a walk-up and my mom has knee problems. And I was also afraid this would tire her so much that her blood pressure might shoot up. I have a studio that is smaller than their bedroom, a bathroom about the size of their closet and I do not own a car that they have gotten so used to in going around. This is Manhattan where people either take the subway, the bus or the cab or walk. I worry that they might get tired that they won't enjoy their vacation. There was no space for my dad to smoke as I live in a smoke free building.

I have learned that things always work out. And it did. My mom did get tired the first few days she had to climb or descend the stairs. Towards the end of their visit she was still slow coming down but didn't get tired as easily. She had built up her stamina so much that by the final weekend when we went to Woodbury Outlets in time for Columbus Day sales, she was running around to get pasalubongs for her grandkids with so much energy.

Initially my dad smoked near my window with my fan acting as an exhaust. Then he discovered that he could step out into the fire escape and enjoy the view and eventually that was what he enjoyed most, watching the city pass by from my third floor 'mini-balcony'. When the mercury started to go down toward their last days in the city, he had also decided to minimize his smoking as he had run out of the packs he had brought in from Manila. The price of a pack of cigarettes here, he complains, at $7 is the cost of 2 reams of cigarettes at home! So it was a good excuse to minimize his nicotine intake.

My mom cooked a lot while she was what I'd prefer, their New York home. She made my aunt very happy with the daily feasts she created of the finest adobo, menudo, pochero, sinigang and tinola. She even played around with the ingredients that were readily available that were cheaper here than at home. She baked salmon that my dad and I literally gulped down with gusto.

It was great to go home and find them at home and then to leave in the mornings for work with the usual ritual of saying goodbye to them. Call me a baby but that was the rituals of my life that I have never outgrown. So coming home today (they left last night) to a dark and quiet apartment was so depressing I just had to move the furniture around and give the apartment a new look.

My parents have traveled to New York many times before prior to my eventual decision to work and live here. They have gone and done all the touristy stuff in the city. On this visit they literally just walked around and met up with relatives and friends. In the weekends we rented a vehicle and drove outside of the city. And it was fun and much as I do not feel the monthly cost of paying for a car, renting I realized, wasn't so bad either! You can have a different car for your every need and it is readily available to you when you need it. I had a van the first week and a medium sized car the next two weekends. I had also reserved an SUV for the last Sunday but we just decided to stay in the city and take it easy.

I haven't had the chance to blog as much while they were here. There was no need to as the major updating that was required for the moment was too close at hand there was no need to go online. This was about setting my priority and I think I stood by which was more important - be with my parents. And I had no time to neither- it was all about family.

My friends at work are not surprised with my closeness to my family. Filipinos outnumber any nationality in our organization and there is a familiarity about the clannishness of our people. I think Andrea had put it most clearly when she said, "You're lucky that you do not come from some dysfunctional family". I know.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sweet Baby Love

I became an aunt the second time around on Saturday, 2 October at 10:05 PM Manila time. Little Lim Nathaniel came into the world two weeks early weighing 7.2 pounds and 49 cm long. A crop of dark black hair and bright red lips, he was such a cute bundle and whose pictures I received barely 12 hours after he was born. Thanks, of course to the excitement and enthusiasm of daddy Francis.


Liam Nathaniel at 3 days


The next day, Sunday I received a call from my cousin Audrey who surprised me by passing the phone to a cousin who was visiting fom Manila with his wife and 5 month old Sofia. Would I want to meet up with them, he asked. A baby? Of course! And so we met up for coffee at the Cipriani Dolci at Grand Central Station for a quick family reunion and an introduction to little Sofia.


Sofia Adriana at 5 months with mom


Too many baby pictures and too many babies lately. Another cutie, but I have no picture to show is Leah Daisy, Patricia and Troy's first baby.

My favorite of course being the best of them all who makes motherhood a great rewarding adventure: my own, Nicole Anne.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

At Cape Cod Bay


Provincetown Beach

If you're fond of sand dunes and salty air
Quaint little villages here and there
You're sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod

We rented a mini van and with our parents and aunt, my sister and I drove to Cape Cod last week. The drive was about 4 hours not counting the stops for coffee, lunch and outlet malling. The weather had been beautiful, nice and perfect during the daytime and chilly in the evenings. This is afterall the first weekend of autumn.

The route along Interstate 95 was brightening up with the beginnings of autumn colors. The further north we went the denser the colors.


Beginnings of autumn along I-95

Our long weekend had stops at Provincetown, which is the tip of the Cape Cod peninsula, a visit and mini tour at the Truro Vineyards, feasted on lobsters at Eastham, an overnight at Hyannisport where we visited the JFK Museum and then a tour of the Breakers mansion at Newport in Rhode Island. My dad, the ever tennis aficionado, also made a stop at the International Tennis Museum in Rhode Island.


Beach houses along Provincetown


The vineyards at Truro


The Yatch Club at Newport, Rhode Island


Main Street, Hyannis

Monday, September 13, 2004

Le Divorce

I had dinner with Matthew and he had brought a friend. Recently separated and working on his divorce, I will call him Jeff.

I have learned from him that New York state laws require that a couple be separated for a year before they can legally file for divorce. I didn’t ask why but assumed that this was to ensure that the couple will not be acting on impulse. He is young, just 35 and was married to his high school sweetheart for 8 years after they have lived together for three years. They were both from Manhattan but after their wedding moved to Long Island in a three bedroom dream house with a porch that overlooked a manicured lawn.

Jeff is not a bitter man after the fact. He is, actually quite reconciliatory. He strikes me as one those who have removed themselves from their situation and have begun to look at their situation as an outsider looking in. He shrugs that he thought it was all simple when you marry someone you have literally grown up with and that things would work it out by itself, and expectations wouldn’t be so high. His ex-wife, who we will call Anne worked as a pre-school teacher and had a strictly 9 to 3 workday and she gave up her work at a school in the city for one that was a 5-minute drive from the house. Jeff worked in Manhattan for a big-shot investment company and stayed there grooming for a vice-president post (which he got last year) and worked long hours. He admits it had been his fault in a way. He had thought that if he worked and made money to pay for the vacations, the parties, the bills and the other things that supposedly made for a lifestyle they both wanted, he was doing his part in the relationship. He was, like his father, fulfilling his role as the Provider.

It was obviously not enough for Anne who felt taken for granted and abandoned in favor of an ambitious drive for corporate success. The next year and a half prior to D-day (when they move out of the dream house with the porch overlooking the manicured lawn) became a struggle to reviving a relationship that had flat-lined. He compared the hard work to feeling your way around a large dark room barefooted with broken glass on the floor seeking for a needle. It was as though no matter how much he had tried to reach out for her hand the further she drifted away from him until they were no longer in the same room. It was a time when every attempt for romance was a sorry act of desperation.

They both resolved to end it sans the drama. Anne moved her things out and returned to her parent's house. Jeff bought an apartment in the city and was spending the week on Matthew's couch while it was being redone.

Looking back, he said he would have done things differently, if he had the chance. He would never have let her slip away in the first place – to have listened more and kept the courtship going even after the wedding. These, in hindsight would have made a difference but in hindsight just the same. It was now over, the house is for sale and lawyers in discussion. When I asked him of the possibility that they could still miss each other and eventually reconsider, he told me real life wasn’t about how it was written in the romance books and Meg Ryan movies. Both of them have thrown the towel to the ring and have accepted that this marriage was over.

Then he said that the experience makes him feel like he’s ready for a relationship more than ever. Not for revenge because he still respected Anne and maybe even loved her, in a different level. Knowing what he knew now, he felt he was armed with the basics of what would make a relationship work and last. He has long accepted that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship – not with parents, siblings and more so with spouses. And yet that he enjoyed being in a relationship – the companionship, of dreaming big together, of creating a life for each other, of having someone to grow old with and of the comfort of monogamous sex. He was never a swinger so there was no wild bachelorhood to revert to.

Until tonight I have always thought of men who have gone through separation and divorce to be the troubled wounded ones. I was just telling Wally a few weeks ago that I stay away from the path of the emotionally wounded man because they carry the weight and burden of drama: exactly the reason why I only date single men. Jeff is wounded and troubled and perhaps masking the wrenching misery and feeling of loss he is trying his best to keep hidden from us. He, however does not make any effort to pretend that the loss of a marriage was one or the other’s fault. He acknowledges his shortcomings and does not uttered a single bad thing against Anne.

Jokingly, we mused that the failure of a marriage being directly proportional to the cost of the wedding. To me, if a couple puts up a big program as a prelude to a marriage you are setting yourself up for doom (and what an evil thought for a wedding planner, too!). People whom you have invited to watch you say your “I do’s” and make your first dance would the ones who would be jinxing your chances for that silver wedding anniversary. How many times have you secretly gone to a wedding and in your head placed a bet on how long the couple would last? Or have you observed the way a couple interacted with each other or their new in-laws to come to a conclusion that the union wouldn’t make it to silver anniversary?

Jeff brings to light a different kind of a man coming in from the storm. Hardened by the cold and having survived, he sees the world in a different light; having experienced the loss of love, now more willing to work harder to keep love. Or perhaps it is just Jeff, a rarity in the class of divorcees and separated men: that there is life after marriage, just with alimony… and maybe child support.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The New York Streetfairs

New Yorkers know a good deal when they see one. What matters most when making a purchase is quality versus price, simplicity with taste and with food, flavor and freshness. Compared to their counterparts in the rest of America, Manhattanites are more fit and/or slimmer because they walk a lot, sometimes more by need than by choice.

The whole of Manhattan is a mall. Shops sit side by side everywhere - Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Loft, The Children's Place being the more affordable clothing chains that populate the city. The pricier designer shops line the stretch of Madison Avenue. If they don't seem affordable, just browsing the goods is motivation enough to walk blocks of concrete pavement. Those who want value for their money and still be in fashion know where to get the goods: Century 21 downtown for European brands of clothes and shoes at sometimes half the price; Daffy, Filene's Basement, Loehmann's and T.J. Maxx also make for great bargain hunting places.



In the weekends, as soon as winter melts its last snowfall and the weather starts to bring the mercury to bearable levels, the streetfairs of New York begin to unfurl into up to 10 blocks of avenue space at a time. It brings mayham to traffic, the trash that it leaves behind reminds one of those EDSA rallies against ERAP (much easier and faster to clear up with street cleaning trucks than the broomsticks of the Metro Aides). But I love them, as much as every other city dweller who descend on them to browse their wares.

The goods are actually pretty much the same: souvinir NY shirts, Imposter sunglasses for $5 (great deal!), houseplants, dried flowers, knick-knacks for tiny apartments, pirated CD's of Italian/Spanish/Greek and reggae music or used CD's selling for about $6, socks of all kinds, leather goods, fashion jewelry, scarves, production overrun of sneakers and other shoes, $10 watches and the assumed rip-offs: fake perfumes, cosmetics you'd be deadly scared to put on your face.

Today, being one of the last great weekends before autumn officially sets in, streetfairs were everywhere. On Second Avenue it closed the stretch of 43rd Street to 53rd. I met up with a friend who suggested we get lunch from the fair and ended up sitting at the park on 47th chowing down French crepes from one of the stores (I had mine with apples and walnut!).


47th Street Park

Since she had to do her laundry (while I had already done mine earlier in the day with some sweet help from a friend) we said goodbye and I headed for home. As the bus reached 60th Street and turned westward crosstown instead of uptown, I was sure there was some more street closings for street fairs. I got off on 86th Street and true enough, a huge arch of red, white and blue balloons danced with the wind. Huge masses of people had gathered and loud live band music was playing and it seemed like a giant street party. It was only after I had passed the huge truck blocking 83rd street did I realize that this streetfair ran for more than 20 blocks!


Balloon arch on 86th Street


20 blocks of street fair


The concert

The wares were the same and so was the food: fried seafood, cheesesteaks, Italian and Asian food, tortellinis (the best in New York, it advertised), pies (the best in New York, it advertised), and Italian gelatos (the best in New York, again!) that you'd think the best food this city ever serves only comes during the weekends.

My favorite all summer had been the popcorn which comes in several flavors: regular, caramel (favorite!!!), chocolate, spicy (hmmmm, good!), cinnamon and buttered.


Kettle Corn

I had tried to call up the MO who lived nearby so I'd have someone to walk with all the way down to 66th Street and the back uptown but when his voicemail picked up instead, I decided to call it a day and start my trek home. On the way back, I decided to stay away from the Kettle Corn booth. But because it was so irresistable, I couldn't help but pick up an ear of roasted corn (super sweet! for $2), ice-cold lemonade ($1) and those things pretending to be flowers that you pin to your jacket so you think you look like Sarah Jessica Parker ($5 for 3).

On the way to the exit at 86th Street, I picked up some brochures for the Fall 2004 offerings of the YMCA on 92nd street and then gave the Bush inflatable a grand uppercut to the cheers of many onlookers. These streetfairs really have everything you need, even a vent for your angst.


We hug him or we punch him - I punched

Norwalk's Oyster Festival

Saturday, temperature in the mid-70's, lots of sunshine and a light cool breeze. It was a perfect day to leave the city for suburban East Norwalk for the Oyster Festival. My girlfriends and I took the first Metro North train of the afternoon and arrived after an hour's travel.

Washington Memorial Park, where they were holding the celebrations and the fair was about 10 minutes walk from the train station. We passed through quiet streets and roads blocked to give way to the throngs of people trooping to the park. As we hiked our way we couldn't help but compare life in this part of the tri-state to the city: an almost unnerving quiet, multi-level homes and cars in driveways, and roadkill. A life completely the opposite of Manhattan chosen by those who seek out life, as it should be as Matthew has declared. Besides, who ever said people need to live through noise in cramped small apartments shared with several other people in buildings once called tenements. Oh well... As we reached the end of East Avenue, a view of the Norwalk Harbor greeted us and lots of boats.


Walking the streets of Norwalk


Norwalk Harbor

The grass was wet and the earth soggy from the drenching of hurricane Frances' visit mid-week. People however had already filled the park and were looking at the items being sold in the tents. At the gates you pay $10 as you enter and gets a stamp on your arm - so high schoolish!, visible only under the ultraviolet lamp they have.

Giant slides of pink and yellow towered over the expanse of the fair, the same with carousels, dizzy dragons and other rides to make the young ones confused so their parents can roam the grounds with more or less sedated children.


Height Frights


Kites

We were hunting for our lunch when we bumped into Aline and her fiance, Matt. Some congratulations and then we continue with our search for food. When we finally settled down on a table under a tent being followed by small flies (at least hindi bangaw!). For $12 I got myself a lobster weighing 1 and 1/4 lb., steamed and cracked open dipped in butter - hmmm! Des had a tuna steak sandwich, Lucia also got lobsters and Paola had a big serving of mussels - perfect lunch, though not cheap!

By the time we had finished our lunch, it was time to move to the middle of the grounds of the food area which had been cordoned off with yellow tape to give way to a skydiving exhibition. A huge X had been marked in the middle using red tape and this was officially now a drop zone. And by 5PM, a green plane flew over the fair grounds and began ejecting extreme sports enthusiasts including our dear friend Thereza.

One by one, each skydiver made their way to the giant red X. We watched them gracefully dancing in the air with their chutes and then as they came closer to the grounds, seemed to pick up speed until they are almost swooping past us and onto terra firma. Some came down with flags flapping in the wind, another with violet smoke trailing behind him for drama, two, including Drew had cameras on their helmets to shoot their descent and some came in a bunch.


Twin Landing

Finally, we see the chute she had warned us to wait for: red, white and blue with a huge USA to the side - it's Thereza! She circled a bit and then like the rest, came down very fast to a great landing. Of course, we cheered her on, relieved that she was safe (she'd be rolling her eyes if she knew we were worrying about her).

When she saw us in the crowd there were bursts of excited girly screams and hugging. She was glad we had come to see her jump and we assured her we came for the food. And then watched while she picked up her chute, a relatively small piece of nylon rags sewn together and kept her afloat while in mid air. When she was done, people had began to swarm around her and as the crowd favorite, gamefully signed autographs (we, her friends, cracked up of course!) for those she captivated with her guts and her charm.


Thereza signing autographs

As we were returning to the train at the end of the day, we wondered where the oysters were as this was anyways, the Oyster Festival! We only saw one shop selling friend oysters and nothing more. Hmmm, maybe they ought to think of renaming this festival for truth in advertising.

Adieu, Farewell and Arrivederci to Summer

This is one of the last weekends of summer (autumn officially begins Sept. 22) and it turned out to be a perfect one. The past week had been a wash-out, remnants of mega-hurricane Frances had soaked the city on Tuesday and creating its own version of an urban nightmare. The buses were bottlenecked on all the intersections of the East Side, my friend Matthew called to let me know so I decided to take the train. It usually takes me about 10 minutes on the subway to get to work but when portions of the 4 and 5 track below 42nd Street got flooded the trains had to use the same tracks as the 6 train and it my trip stretched to 30 minutes.

Grand Central's platforms were being soaked from leaking ceilings. It gets worse as you go up to the turnstiles where it is flooded and about 15 buckets are strategically placed to catch the downpour from the ceiling. I had worn close-toe summer heels and they were soaked so badly it make swishing sounds when I walked. I got the office late but still earlier than everyone who had to drive into the city, ending up more than doubling their travel time as well. Soon as I got to my desk, I took out the alcohol and rubbed some on my legs and feet. Ew!

Wednesday was dreary as well but not as bad as the previous day and as the weekend came closer, the weather got better. The mornings and evenings had become cool, less humid, averaging in the upper 60's. Sunset has also started to get earlier, darkness installed at 730PM.
The trees in Central Park and around the city are still green but slowly and surely, autumn is on its way.

The displays at the stores are now showcasing fall fashion - boots, ponchos, jackets and less of the pastels, though Loft is still in the pink and gray mode. Although these are still relatively humid weather for Manhattan I am amazed to see women in the subway wearing their boots already. I'm sure they missed their shoes but should enthusiasm be an excuse for comfort? I am baffled what if they have feet that sweat in the heat of all those suede or leather. I am back to my slingbacks but I will still go back to my slides if weather.com can guarantee no preciptation for the day - I really hate it when my feet gets wet.

I don't really abhor autumn. The love the way the air gets crisp and comfortable, when it melts the sticky humidity of summer. Fashion wise, it is always great to returns to the less pastel hues because it has been proven to create an illusion that you are a few pounds less. And the jackets make great cover-ups for the extra flabs on the sides, too! I always say and rejoice about the fact that when the cold weather sets in, the chubby/non-size 0's are in fashion again.

It seems from this point onwards the days go by on high speed soon it is time to take down the calendar for a new one.

I would embrace the summer and not let go if I could. Despite the sweat it makes me break into and the balminess of a humid day, I still find it to be my favorite season of all. Probably more if I could find myself near a beach to walk the sand or play on the water. But I like the way the bright days seem to lift my moods almost automatically. When a walk in the park instantly vanishes your worries.

Autumn is about reds, browns, yellows and golds as the foliage colors change and then fall to the ground. It is about driving upstate for apple picking picnics. It is about preparing for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and my favorite of all, Christmas. This is going to be my third autumn in New York as a resident. I will look forward to a stroll at Central Park as the trees start to shed its leaves. I will look forward to the grand Halloween Parade at the Village where everyone is a child again. I will then travel to San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving with relatives and then get ready to go home for Christmas.

Arrivederci summer, but not yet.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Mail Call2

My recent entries talking about marriage created different reactions from friends, as evidenced by the offine messages on my yahoo and email. The most extreme are as follows:

Where the Grass is NOT Greener

It is so like you to evaluate your current situation after catching a
glimpse of what is on the other side. Let me tell you however that grass is not
always greener on this side of the bakod (fence), speaking from experience.

Let me remind you of the same words you had given me before when I asked
you about settling down: some people are made for it and
some are just not
. Let me bring back the sanity to your thinking by
giving you ten reasons why you have the better of the two worlds:

1. When he comes home early morning from a night out with friends, drunk and
charging the limit on your joint credit card, you have no choice but to figure out a way to get past this situation because you are in a marriage. If he were just your boyfriend, knowing you, he'd be zapped out of your life.

2. Despite two incomes you're figuring out which is the more priority: a romantic
week travel to Italy or a brand new washing machine. I'm sure without much
thought yung lakwartsa pipiliin mo (I'm sure you would choose the one that involves travel).

3. You come home tired and so happy to just have a sandwich but he comes home and sweetly requests a meal. And being a good wife is serving your husband - turo ng mga nanay natin yan (our moms taught us that this is the only way).

4. You want to sleep and he wants something else and the mood is just NOT there.

5. He flaunts his bodily noises around you because you've come to that stage in your relationship when you are more 'comfortable' with each other.

6. You clean the house spotless and then the kids come in from school and throw their stuff all over. Then husband comes home, kicks off his shoes and sits in front of the TV oblivious to the rest of the world. Careerwoman? Tsimay ka sa bahay!

7. You earn an income that is not really yours. It belongs to a joint account to pay the bills, the mortgage, the insurance, and everything else that has nothing to do with you and what used to make you happy.

8. Right when you have finally earned the respect of your peers at work, you get treated as though he still knows best and your opinions do not count. Obvious bang ngitngit na ngitngit ako? (ah...eh....oo)

9. You will never sleep the same way again from the moment you get that first child
(but you know what I am talking about).

10. You can always come up with an alibi not to have dinner with your boyfriend's relatives. When he becomes your husband, they become part of the package and might even stay at your house and take over the household while there.

I have always envied you. Be careful what you ask for at baka magsisi ka. Dios mio wala sanang dwendeng gising nung nagmumuni-muni ka ng mga yan!

Sa Wakas!

A partner in life is God's greatest gift. I'm glad you are re-evaluating your choices in life and I think the guy you're seeing now has a lot to do with this. I think my prayers are answered. He seems to be the perfect man for you because he has helped made you change your mind. I will continue to pray for you and hope that God will bless you both. I know things will not always be easy and that you might still change your mind one more time. But maybe I should tell Judith to talk to you some more and maybe invite you to Ohio more often so that you can stay in this frame of mind. You are right, it is really hard to grow old alone. Do get married while you are still young and so you'll have a Joshua of your own.

MY SAGOTS:

I said I was reconsidering. I HAVEN'T gotten engaged over the weekend and I do not see a wedding in a year or 6 months so you can still improve on your repertoire, Jong, if you really intend to sing at my wedding. But I like the suggested processional song: Dito Ba and recessional song: Sino ang Baliw - hehehehe.

Calm down, even my daughter took my reflections with a grain of salt. I am not apt to make major decisions overnight despite the fact that yes, I think I have found a really good man who makes things worth reconsidering. As for the list of WHY NOT's, I can assure you that many of that might not apply since he often is the one who cooks for me (because he doesn't really like Filipino food and he is better at the task), he is quite a considerate man.

But firstly, I have no idea if this is what I really want. Ask me again in two weeks.


Monday, September 06, 2004

Meeting Josh

The trip had been planned weeks in advance. I had booked my flight but haven't had the chance to build the excitement with so much going on with work and play. It seemed that the days were moving fast and before I knew it, it was Labor Day weekend and I was ready to travel to Ohio to meet Josh.

Plan was to meet up with Remy and Judith in Columbus for our annual get-together. Last year we met up in Ft. Lauderdale and prior to that, in DC and Manhattan. This year, Judith was hosting us. As early as Thursday however, it became obvious that mega-hurricane Frances was going to hit Florida and wasn't allowing Remy to fly out at all, unless she could book herself a broom in time c",). By lunchtime Thursday, Remy had called me up to let me know that airports were closed and that they had been sent home to secure their homes with shutters and to prepare for the worst.

I pushed through with my plans. I left my Manhattan apartment and had the ever reliable Super Shuttle bring me to La Guardia. Door to door, I was there in 10 minutes and it didn't cost too much either ($15 + tip) compared to a cab ($25) or the airport bus ($13 but I have to get it from Grand Central which means I have to get into the subway with my luggage).

Airport was filled with delegates from the recently concluded Republican convention held at the Madison Square Garden for the week. They had their placards, their hats and their luggage bragged their political affinity. I sat amongst them at the airport's lounge as I devoured my slice of Sbarro cheese pizza.

The Delta jet was small. It is a 1+2 seater, meaning the single aisle has one seat to the right and two seats to the right. I knew it was going to be a short flight but a dinner party the night before at Union Square area with my friends from work for Renee had me in bed quite late. I also had to wake early to get a fresh cheesecake from Junior's at Grand Central. Unbelievable as it may seem, it was tired even before I had gotten started on my day. I dozed off soon after take off and woke in time for the landing.

I looked out the cabin's window and viewed the vast green vista we were approaching that was Ohio. The sun was bright and it promised to be a perfectly mild weekend.

It was Kevin, Judith's husband who got me from the airport to bring me home. While driving he told me about Columbus and about the places we were passing on the way to Dublin where their home was. As we drove through Easton he mentioned that Arnold Schwarzenegger would hold his annual bodybuilding and fitness celebrations there.

The drive was pleasant and as we turned toward the residential areas I noticed a big Taco Bell and mentioned that I had been craving for a Taco Bell only to find out the one near my apartment had closed and was now another deli. On Saturday night, Kevin made tacos at home and hey, it's even better than TB! We passed through quiet streets lined with family-size homes with front yards and porches, we reached a cul d'sac and pulled into their driveway.

Finally walked into the house and found 5 week old Joshua in his mom's arms. What a cute baby! So lovable!



I wasn't tired anymore, forgot about the headache from lack of sleep, and was just going to enjoy the long weekend in the company of this loveable little person and friends.

Kids Play

Joshua is just 5 weeks old. So all he does is feed, poop, sleep and make a fuss when he can't get either. When he is in the mood he stares back at me as I carry him in my arms and mouths responses to my monologues. Once in a while he breaks into a funny giggle or a yawn. He enjoys listening to the conversations I endlessly have with him mom and sleeps through our chatter. When the room turns quiet he wakes.

Funny that I would tell Desiree later on that the perfect man, I have discovered is 5 weeks old. No emotional luggage, no sarcasm, no insecurities, no deviation toward alcohol or drugs, caffeine or nicotine. Life for him is just mommie and milk and sleep. Hahahaha...

This is Josh, a victim of my boredom on the long drive to the outlet malls.





I really should have another one of my own. I tried to run away with him this morning as I was about to return to Manhattan but it was hard because 1.) he couldn't fit into my luggage after the stuff I shopped for and 2.) his parents were bringing me to the airport and his absence might have been noticed. Hohum....


Discovering Columbus

What does astronaut Neil Armstrong, seven American presidents, actress Doris Day, golfer Jack Nicklaus, director Steven Spielberg and Dean Martin have in common? They all call Ohio their birthplace.

Planing into Ohio's Port Columbus International Airport is like riding a breeze. It was an easy hour and half jet ride from New York's La Guardia. Nevermind that this is probably going to be my smallest jet ever, the trip was still uneventful and easy and it seemed as though I had beamed from the city to the suburbs in a wink.

Pretty much like the rest of America, the expanse of freeways and roads link up the cities and places to each other. I remembered California and how it was unusual for someone NOT to own a car. It is certainly NOT New York where people walk to get anywhere.

Big houses with frontage of trees and flower beds and swing-sets for children. Each driveway has at least one car, some even 4, probably depending on how many of those who lived in the house drove. Backyards with no fences, tree-lined streets, porches, cul d'sacs and picket fences.





Big high school campuses, almost the size of some universities in other countries, I realized, with baseball diamonds, basketball courts, track fields and centrally located in neighborhoods that raised families. Strip malls with drive-ins: Taco Bell, McDonalds, Wendy's and my newly discovered favorite: White Castle's with their mini-hamburgers. Chinese restaurants that required pick-up because delivery would have to take longer than 10 minutes from time of call, which is the Manhattan standard.



Neighbors who talked to each other and who invited each other to the parties at home. Kids who ran up to the house next door to brag about a new pet, ask about visitors and just to say hi. A certain degree of trust that does not come naturally to neighbors within a building in the city.

Yet this is a city also with the usual skyscapers but also the country where vast acres are planted to corn and beans. There are malls that have the same merchandise that they are selling in Manhattan, just less tax. Where corn is a dozen to $2 while it's $1 for 3 in New York City, which is fine as I won't be able to finish 12 anyways no matter how much I like corn.





What I liked about Columbus most though, aside from little Josh giving it a whole new meaning is that part of life which had momentarily slipped me away: family life. I had been engrossed in the single life - of living alone, taking care of myself, having friends to hang out with. Although I have thought about it and have seriously discussed it, I have never comfronted the possibility of creating this kind of world for myself and someone special (read next blog).

I have discovered this city called Columbus and in a way it has discovered me, too. Now I am contemplating things I haven't. Although I'd like to think of myself still pretty much a city girl, a weekend immersion into domesticity is refreshing break.

Flying back to the East Coast, I couldn't help but notice how residences came closer the nearer we got to New York. An hour after taking off from Ohio, my plane broke through clouds and flew over the familiar view of the city island so familiar to me. I heave a sigh and couldn't help smiling to myself: this my home.


A Fear of Heights

Tonight, sitting across the table from Desiree at the diner, we talked about marriage and commitments. Would I see myself being with someone for the rest of my life and having more kids?

I have just had an immersion at domesticity in Ohio while spending the long weekend with Judith and Kevin. I have paused now and then to ask myself if I was ready to return to that state of long-term commitments. Sooner, not later would be the best time to begin contemplating on it as the world had not paused to when I was ready to contemplate.

Marriage, yes. I am definitely seeing myself married and growing old with someone. That is a given I have prepared myself for and hopefully, as I have said, it would be with someone who I not only love but respect as well. A life-long partner who sees me as an equal, who can share laughter with me and who can appreciate the differences in our cultures, if he should be from another part of the world.

Children? It's been a while since I have had nappy calls and burping sessions. Nicole is already at that age when she is ready to give me my first grandchild. But although I do love babies so much and I can work magic with them, I am afraid to start over again. The scare of a child running a fever, screaming and crying at the top of his lungs makes me feel helpless. To sit down to do homeworks, deal with school activities and go through teenage angst one more time seems too overwhelming for me at this stage. I have done that and though I cannot say it had been traumatic to raise a child like Nicole I will also say I am scared to test fate and realize I have found myself a child who is just like me when I was young.

Medically, I should still fall within the healthy pregnancy age range, specially here in the United States. On the other hand, it would be fun to have babies again. It should be easier now that I have been there and have had a great experience raising one.

Much as many people have raised kids in the city, I do not see MY children growing up in a cramped apartment. If I do decide to have another child, that baby would have to be the catalyst for me to give up my City Gurl lifestyle and engage a new life in the suburbs. A house with space to crawl, walk and run; trees in the backyard to climb and fall off from; lawns that would have the sprinklers running in the summer to run through.

A marriage, a family are serious thoughts of immense depths. From my shallow ground I couldn't help but ask myself if that kind of a commitment was something I could seriously grasp and keep hold of. I also know that the success of that endeavor is not solely in my hands but would rely also on the sense of responsibiity of that person I will choose to partner with to make this dream a reality. And call it supertitious but fate would have to be a main factor in that choice as well. We would have to be each other's soul mates. Sige, taasan ninyo ako ng kilay.

I used to fear permanency. I used to think life as I knew it would be enough to grow old on. I was making my own money, have a career, I already have a child, this is my life and seemed quite complete. Not anymore. These days, more now than before, I have begun to think of sharing a life with someone again. I might just be ready to jump off from my tower and run off with my prince into the sunset.

I used to have a fear of heights. I still do, can't stand the view from the 24th floor office I inhabit daily. But with life in general, I think I am ready to take the view at a different aspect. I may not have the heroics to jump alone but if someone will take my hand then maybe I could brave the height and take the plunge. You never know....

Friday, August 27, 2004

Forever 35

Another birthday is fast approaching. I’m trying to cushion the impact by pre-empting any of my friends from arranging a surprise party. Today as I checked my calendar and realized that I would be pretty booked much of that week and the next few weeks with my parent’s visit so I had emailed everyone in the guise of coordinating for a joint birthday celebration for Jorge (4th) and Kristine (16th) and I.

I think I’m going anti-birthday this year. On all my egroup calendars I have deleted the reminders to my birthday. I figure if people don’t remember and I don’t get greeted then maybe I’ll not age another year in 2004. The sweet Italian friend has mailed me my gift already and hopefully, it’ll reach me in time. I know what it is anyways, since I had asked for it – a baseball cap from the Athens Olympics where he visited last weekend (despite nearly dying from a Macedonian dental surgery).

I can still remember when my birthday was such a big thing and was something to look forward to. Until I was probably in high school, I had a yearly celebration in one form or another. Birthday parties at home when I was growing up when my mom prepared all the food where I’m sure would have included either pancit or spaghetti – long noodles for long life. Then later on, to just give me money to celebrate with my friends at a venue of our own choosing. I remember most was that my dad always had a special gift for me. It was as though raising me and spending for my party wasn’t enough, I think it was every year that he had something for me – a watch, a bracelet, a ring or something to mark the occasion.

When I was already working and developed more mature romantic relationships (yeah, if there is such a thing) I remember being surprised with violins and a birthday cake on what was planned to be a quiet dinner. Last year I had a surprise birthday party which leaked back to me a week before but it had been fun just the same, sipping apple martini and sharing slices of pizza.

As the calendar shreds pages and years and I get older, I become more and more hesitant to celebrate. What is there to celebrate anyway? Things are pretty much the same way as it had been since last year. A few more poundage perhaps but that is certainly no reason to celebrate. The past year of my life would probably account for the most un-eventful in my lifetime. Though I have shifted jobs (same organization, new department and new location) the impact isn’t so life-changing or mind-altering; a boyfriend who is almost virtual; a Manhattan apartment that I hardly enjoy since I’m out all the time – even the weekends. I have spent so much money on traveling this year I barely have any savings.

Why do people celebrate birthdays anyway? It’s the day you are born so what’s the big deal? Do we celebrate because we succeeded to survive another year? So what’s the logic why some people still commemorate a dead person’s birthday? Pretty much in the same manner that wedding anniversaries are celebrated. Why? Do people celebrate their tenacity to have lasted another year with their spouse? Isn't that a sad sad thing? Or is it just a reason to wax sentimental and earn a gift at the same time? Or to pick a fight if the other forgets to remember the date. IT IS JUST A DATE!

I’m all for getting older and wiser (which still doubts me if I have) but at this stage I think I’ve ran out of reasons to celebrate because I’ve become more perplexed about the rituals of life and living. I am sure it has something to do with processing my thoughts about what I want my life to be about. Is it just going to be this, what I had been doing all my life? Is it always going to be about other people and how they influence my life. I am certain of one thing: I want to break away from the norms of what I have created and gotten used to. I would like to shape my life to be what I think I would want it to be when I am old.

Certainly and surely I would like to settle down. Commitment-phobic as I may always seem to sound, deep inside I fear growing old by myself. I would like to have someone there with me in the sunset of my years and preferably one who had been there a while with whom I can reminisce while sitting out on the balcony of our home looking over a lake or the sea on moonlit nights. It is a dream and it requires a reconditioning of my current mindset. For a long time I have thought about my future and assumed that growing old alone isn't so bad. I have had many insights into the married life of my friends and more and more it has cemented my opinion that no man is worth marrying.

On the other hand, I have also witnessed the life of an aunt who has chosen not to be in a relationship and to grew old by herself. It may not be for her but as an outsider looking in, I found a very empty, sad and alarming picture. Something I now fear I would fate myself into if I continued to set high standards and expected too much. Maybe relationships require a compromise. Maybe I'm at that stage when I can settle for mediocre rather than none. I still need to reflect on those thoughts. Frankly I think it is a pathetic reason to marry. But to have found a friend who loves me, tolerates me and who I can love back and tolerate I guess is a blessing enough that I have continued to overlook.

I look around me and realize that I still haven't reached that stage when I can think of myself as one who has lived life and earned its lessons. I am, however more accepting of the fact that life planning must begin now for the years that lie ahead of me and that involves a lot of changes, a lot of breaking away from the strings that had held me off.

I will still laugh as loud as I can, skip and hop when I am happy, charge through life with passion and acknowledge that tears cleanses the soul when so required. I will look at the mirror and stop comparing myself with everyone and know that I am my own person, unique and endearing to the ones who matter regardless of my faults and misgivings.

Another birthday and I'm aware it is coming. I have accepted the fact that I am not getting any younger but I still refuse to celebrate it because I will forever remain 35 as long as I can.

Did you think this entry was going to change anything? Ahhhh, you still don't know me well enough.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Si Maey, si Bechay at Ako

I am sitting on my living room floor with a boxful of photographs searching for images of Maey, Bechay and myself back in college when we were called Kulasas, when life was simpler and love was intense and the world was a promise. It had been a very long time since we had gotten together. Many reasons have come and gone and somehow re-connecting now, I suppose we are just joyed with the fact that we can renew a friendship from where we left off.

I have no more idea of where and how we started to become friends. Most probably it was in the small office of the school newspaper, the Scholastican where I was doing news, Maey was in Features and Bechay was in Artworks. The blurred beginning however gives way to much clarity of our years together even after we had left school. Love stories, weddings, break-ups and the cycle of our lives kept our lives intertwined like the eternal soap opera.

There is absolutely nothing I can remember about college that didn't have a memory of the three of us. The way we harassed the male AND female professors like typical colegialas, playing hookey at the start of the semester and going off to the mall to watch movies or just hanging out at Tia Maria's and getting drunk at 3 in the afternoon. I remember troubled days that often accompanied the growing up years when running up to our parents for help seemed juvenile and so it seemed that going solo on the burden of love affairs gone wrong or everything else seemed the inevitable. I would find solace on the mezzanine of the school's liberal arts building, in an office that was more often used for hanging out than brainstorming for newspaper editions. And just when you think you would be there alone, either Bechay or Maey would always be there. Like we were somehow connected and drawn to the same place at the same time.

Our concentric circle of friends grew, drawing in other characters in a cast of hundreds that eventually would pass us by year after year. Yet we stayed close. My memories of our friendship include a religious retreat in Baguio where I have a picture of Bechay expertly rolling that sweet-smelling smokes to share amongst 15 roomates. And then when we returned to the final reflection of the night when the nuns made us think back to sad situations with the intent of making us repent and cry, I was peaking on my reaction to my smokes and was giggling hysterically. That was when they swore not to involve me again in anything 'natural' or 'unnatural' in terms of smoking.

Once upon a time I did smoke in their company. I remember buying Marlboro Lights and lighting up now and then inside the Scholastican office. Not much for the thrill of smoking but more for the thrill of going against the rules. I remember the editors and writers of the paper when I was a junior where we marked the end of the schoolyear by bringing in alcolohic beverages into the office and then getting tipsy and literally crawling to our next class on the 4th floor.

I remember how I would accompany Bechay to the faculty room to stalk her favorite prof whom we nicknamed Lucky. As how they were all 'tita' to Nicole and at one time when everyone had her baby picture in their wallet including their boyfriends.

Nicole eventually became Maey's flower girl in her wedding to Pedro. And now that Nicole is almost turning 20, we - Maey, Bechay and I are once again emailing/chatting or talking on the phone. Maey found me on the internet a few months ago while she and Bechay had always stayed in touch. Bechay is now in Canada. Maey has 7 year old Asha and Bechay has 7 year old Alec.

This morning, after chatting with Maey, I dialled Bechay's number and spent the next 45 minutes catching up with her. Despite the more than 10 years that had lapsed since we last spoke to each other it seems it had just been a thick fog that had clouded our bridges. We were the same - the same laughter, the same naughtiness, same Bechay and same me. Whatever reasons we may have had to have somehow pulled apart from each other many years ago, the reasons are now dimmed and the bright sunshine is shining upon our friendship again.

I plan to see Maey in December when I go home and looking forward to kissing Asha and joking with Pedro again. I am sure I will be teased about old love stories but I am also sure it will be a great reunion. For the meantime, I have a reunion much sooner to look forward to - the possibility of meeting up with Bechay in Montreal when I visit next month with my parents.

I went to mass early today and said a special prayer of thanks for the many beautiful memories of my life that I had been fortunate to have had that come rolling back to me when the days seem empty and the search for meaning is once again answered even without a question. Family and old friends who know me well and who love me for what I am... another of life's greatest gifts.

La dolce vita...