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.


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


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.