Monday, June 27, 2005

New York's Gay Pride Parade 2005

36th Annual Pride Week Parade in NY (click on the picture for slideshow)

The crowd that stretched from Bryant Park along 5th Avenue created a street party all the way to downtown. Every year, the weather had always been most conducive - the heat and humidity allowing everyone to bare and show off their toned bodies. Almost as though everyone was oblivious to the fact that they are in the middle of the city, instead imagining that they are on the beach enjoying the season highs. I go for many reasons - the fun, I enjoy being surrounded by so many beautiful people(men, women alike) and to show support for their causes.

The first Gay Parade in New York dates back to 1969 when about 500 people gathered at Washington Square Park a month after the 'Stonewall Riots'. Annually, on the last Sunday in June, the tradition continued. These days, the celebration is now called the New York Annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride March.

I grew in a society that didn't have much tolerance nor understanding for the diversity of humankind. Sometimes I blame it on the predominantly Catholic upbringing of the people that tend to divide everything to either black or white. To be accepted you had to be like everyone else and if you weren't you were either the sideshow freak or the outcast.

'Free your mind' is the slogan that caught my eye, suitably for the narrowminded whose opinions and ideas follow a one way street often absent of any self-reflection. Free your mind and realize that there is more to the world than what was there 20 or 10 years ago. Free your mind and wake up to the spectrum of colors in all hues and values and tints that surround this universe. Free your mind and accept that we as human are as diverse as each rock on the riverbeds. Free your mind and realize that non-conformity to the standards to which society had set does not make anyone a lesser individual.

Sexual preference is as varied as anything and it doesn't make one less or more moral than the other. I am a straight female whose preference had always been the straight male (European, tall, tan, young, smart and articulate being my weakness *wink*) but some of the friends I keep closest to my heart embrace diversity. I know their aches and their lives are often misunderstood, burdened with secrecy.

I believe that safe sex promotes not only good health but planned parenthood so I shake my head when people make a big deal out of a condom. I believe that same sex couples has the same capability to raise intelligent and emotionally, socially and intellectually balanced children as any other couple. I believe that couples regardless of their gender has a right to a marriage and that their choices of who they want to spend their life with should not be dictated by church or state but by heart.

That person who you find 'different' is not only a fag, a 'bakla', a 'tibo' or whatever else they are called. Remember that they are also brother, father, son, sister, mother or daughter. Remember also that they are also prime ministers, governors, senators, congressmen, lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers, writers, singers and most of all: like you, human.

I go to the parade yearly to bask in the joy of freedom, even for just an afternoon. I know at the end of the day, these people go back to their lives and their struggles until society becomes more understanding.

I didn't lose your emails!!!

You know who you are:

I got all your emails. Matter of fact whenever I log on to my yahoo account I get a canned laughter background sound effect because it is going to be another day when I will attempt but not really be able to respond to a single email.

As usual, it is a case of work getting in the way of personal life and then other stuff add to the frenzy.

I know you all understand. Thank you so much for bearing with me. Keep them coming!

PS: Jenny.... what the heck?!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Happy Father's Day, Pingping!

I’ve never called my dad any other name than Pingping. He has always wanted his kids to call him that and we never really knew why. It is a unique term of endearment for a one-of-a-kind father. Being Jose Jr., he is either Jun or Peping to his family and many friends.

Pingping in NY (October 2004)

He will be 68 this August and he remains healthy, tough, funny and loving. He can still also beat the &#!%*@ of anybody my age in a game of tennis anytime. On the tennis court, he has baffled many of the source of his energy as he can outlast and outscore anyone half his age.

Growing up I adulated my father like any daughter. I basked in his attention and envied the special loving relationship he had with my mom. Now almost 40 years married they are the only couple I know who still walk hand in hand even if it is just at the mall. He still opens the door for her. They have a friendship that has withstood many trials. They have cushioned each other from the blows of life. And to this day, every night after dinner they would sit outside and talk until it was time to sleep. And God knows how they never run out of stories to tell. It is a rarity in this time and age of separations and divorces. And when you have him as a standard to measure the qualities of your boyfriend/s, very few really make the mark.! And so it was a frustrating cycle for Gigi and I to seek out someone who was like him.

With mom at the UN

Unlike the typical Filipino male, my dad didn’t mind helping out in the house especially during the weekends. While my mom cooked all the meals at home, my dad washed the pots and the dishes. Besides, no one else did it as perfectly as he did because when he was done, the whole kitchen would be spotless. He took care of our small garden and has always done the landscaping himself. Picking out the plants from the nursery and then selecting their spot in the garden and then nurturing them was his favorite pastime. And let me tell you that when he gets into that mood of polishing his shoe collection, there would be a long row of gleaming Florsheims and Ballys in the garage. And don’t even let me get started how he is when he gets into cleaning the cars! My obsessive-compulsiveness is something I’m sure I got from him.

Like any other office worker, my dad totally loathed his job . Yet he continued to devote himself to his work and passed this on to his children. Be grateful of what opportunities you have, he would always remind us. My father is the politician who befriends everyone. And when he retired just a little before his 60th birthday we had a bunch of people who we call tita or tito who have become ‘adopted relatives’ and who used to work with him. Tita Jane was his devoted ‘assistant’ and to this date we’d still visit her at home during Christmas season to catch up.

And yet my dad is not always smiling and in a jolly mood. He is not perfect. I’ve seen him go through many troubles and though he has stood like the Rock of Gibraltar I know that it has also weathered him. Besides, raising two daughters like Gigi and myself and then Francis is not an easy task. When matters of disciplining were elevated to my dad’s attention it was time for a logical reasoning. We’d better have a good explanation for our offense. Yet despite the gravity of our misdemeanors while growing up, my dad had never hurt us physically or verbally. I guess after my mom would tell him what we have done he’d give himself time to calm down before he’d call for us. And usually it is the waiting that would be most torturous. And when he got started he’d always ask first what our side of the story was. And that is how I became a writer. I learned to organize my thoughts well enough to mitigate the blow of my delinquencies. And never EVER lie – because you’ll always get found out.

A fact I've known most of my adult life is that I am what I am now because of what he has been to me. My character, my temperament, the way I think, the way I speak have semblances of him. In the way I make decisions and the way I can stretch my patience but just snap instantly are all like him.

My greatest fear had always been to disappoint him and I know in my lifetime I’ve succeeded doing that quite some. Yet he has always loved me unconditionally and accepted my faults as part of me like he has the rest of his brood including my daughter, Nicole. He has loved us with our imperfections and we have returned the feeling more than ten-fold to the man who taught us what being a father is all truly about.

His life is easier now with the kids all grown and gone away. His daughters are in the US and Francis, now a doctor is raising a family of his own. His joys are simpler – news from the farm in Mindoro that the mango trees are fruiting would take him on a high for days. Phone calls from his daughters, having Francis visit with Lai, Gabrielle and Liam; Nicole coming home from the university for the weekends, his tennis games, and his regular dose of nicotine and caffeine. His newest sweetheart is Gabrielle who seeks him out when she gets sleepy because in his arms she finds her solace and where she would instantly fall into a slumber assured that she is safe and loved.

With Gabrielle (December 2004)

I look at my father now and see him with more appreciation, gratitude and respect. He has done so much to provide us with a comfortable life and prepare us for a challenging future. And all this as the sole breadwinner of our family. There will probably be nothing I can do to repay him for what he has given me because there is no monetary equivalent for all I have received. But somehow I hope that in the life that I will live, in the one or two things that I will accomplish I can make him proud. And make him realize that these are the small tokens I can afford to let him know that I love him.

To my Pingping and the other fathers/uncles/kuyas/titos who are special in their own loving paternal way: HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!

P.S. Happy Father's Day, Francis!!!!!

Francis with Gabrielle and Liam (June 2005)

Note: This article has previously appeared on my personal website (before the blog) for Father's Day 2003.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

First Summer Weekend of 2005

Almost as if on cue, summer un-officially started at the East Coast on Memorial Day weekend. The long holiday had most New Yorkers heading for the beach - the Hamptons, Cape Cod, or the beaches of the Jersey Shore or Long Island.

One week after we experience our first highs in terms of temps and more heat and humidity is expected the next few days before some rain brings a temporary relief.

On Saturday I went with a friend to Long Island. What had started to be a midly cool damp morning turned out to be a perfect day for browsing the wares at the Nautical Mile Festival at Freeport. Afterwards, we sat in an Irish bar for lunch, gulping down mini-burgers, fries and barbeque wings, the water along the Woodcleft Canal reflecting the bright summer sun and the cloudless heavens. There were amusement rides sprinkled along the length of the festival venue - one that caught my attention (and breath) was one that flipped its seats upside down. Nope, I didn't take a chance. We headed for the pig race (which I thought was hilarious but actually fun). As for the winning piglet, I hope he gets spared from a Filipino table for the next day's Independence festivities at the park in Manhattan.

Taking advantage of the great weather, we drove south of Freeport and basked in the warmth of the afternoon sun along the boardwalks of Long Beach, Lido Beach and Atlantic Beach. One thing I find amusing is that Americans love the beach but when they do come, they either play ball on the sand, sunbathe, throw frisbees, sail, fish, surf or dive. I told them that where I come from, people go into the water and just stay there for hours, swimming or just talking. I remember long mornings or afternoons (we get out when the sun is too hot) until our fingertips loooked like prunes. And when we went to bed at night, you could still feel the movement of the waves.

Long Island on Saturday

Today, Wally and I arranged to meet at Grand Central station to head for Coney Island in Brooklyn. It was going against the advise of everyone we know. The M.O. warned me that it wasn't anything like the beaches at Long Island. So clad in our flip flops and summer outfits, Wally and I met up and decided to walk to take the D train on 42nd and Park.

On the way, we met many Filipinos on their way to the Independence Parade and so we decided to just peek and see. As we turned on 41st and Madison, we were surprised by the en masse turnout of many 'kababayans' who were either watching or participating in the parade. First, we bumped into Wally's cousin who handed us a bottle of water and a bag of skittles.

The parade was a week early of the actual date of commemoration of the Philippine's Independence from its last colonizer (hmmm, totoo nga bang independent na tayo?) of June 12. In parade-crazy New York City however, June 12 is the Puerto Rico parade.

NYPD officers riding on horseback brought in the red,white and blue of the US and the Philippines and then the parade began. Float after float of beauty queens of many titles, interspersed with marching bands and men in kilts playing bagpipes (I LOVE this sound!!!) made me feel like a child. I waved my freebie Philippine flag (from my friends from BPI) gleefully, sometimes clapping and ever so glad we took a detour from our Coney Island trip.

I take pride in being Filipino - the reputation we have established as hardworkers, intellectuals and beautful women (bow). In New York, the common pick-up...errrr, breaking the ice line I get is often: are you Filipina (and I sometimes say yes) then immediately followed by: are you a nurse?

I detest however the common Filipino traits among them, of making a sport out of picking faults or criticizing other people. PINTASERA, is the exact word that has no appriate equivalent in Engish probably because it is criticizing often times out of envy. Then there is this constant urge to make everyone else's business their own: PAKI-ALAMERA. When the high sun lifted the shade on the sidewalk where we had positioned ourselves, everyone around us shifted backwards to the shadows. Wally and I stayed under the sun hoping to bronze our arms as much as we could. Then we heard unsolicited concern from the people behind us: "Hoy, mainit na diyan, mapri-prito bunbunan ninyo!" (Hey, its too hot you'll fry your scalp!) or "Naku, lumilim na kayo o di kaya eh bubuhatin ko kayo!" (Hey, come to the shade if I have to carry you here myself!".

I realized these were among the reasons I DETEST about being in the midst of other Filipinos. A backward kind of mentality that not even having lived in a more progressive country has changed. Fortunately for me, the Filipinos from my organization have left behind this negative trait at the baggage carousel at the airport. I realized it is not even by level of education that Filipinos have this terrible attitude. The women behind us were from my college alma mater. Hay naku...

A day that started full of patriotic pride was doused by the reminder of a disappointing reality about my heritage. Why are we the way we are, anyway? Wally and I walked away, deciding not to dwell on our annoyance. We headed towards the direction of the Filipino streetfair on 28th Street and downed our frustration with food we grew up with: liempo fresh from the grill, lechon paksiw, sweet catsup-flavored spaghetti downed with sage-gulaman. On the way to our ride home, we bought for Renee some boat tarts and balut for our dinner.

Images from the Independence Parade at midtown