Monday, June 19, 2006


I try not to rant so much lest I prove my daughter right that I have so much drama going on. But after going through much of an emotional roller coaster the past few weeks I think I have better appreciation of the good things that life is about.

Rave# 1

I decided to open a Chase account late last year, a little before the winter started to bite. See, in carless Manhattan, an ATM machine that is a block away feels like it is a mile in distance when the weather is bitterly freezing or when slippery and slushy snow is littered all over. A lot of my friends have tried to discouraged me but I thought I'd lose nothing by moving even just my payroll account to another bank.

I have not regretted it. There is an ATM almost every other Manhattan block (not as easy outside of the NY area, I realized when I travelled to Phoenix though), I get safe online transactions, and the icing to my cake came tonight.

I had been getting recurring fees of $9.95 monthly which I couldn't explain but thought would be the usual bank charges. Since I had extra time tonight when working on balancing my accounts (never balances but I keep trying anyway) I decided to call customer service and ask what it was about.

I talked to a very nice man who kept apologizing to me as he looked through my account and tried to see how far back the fee charges had been made. He explained to me that this fee was for those who used MS Money or Quickbooks or any other banking software. When I told him I wouldn't entrust Bill Gates with my banking info, he quickly worked on crediting back to me $59.70 worth of charges dating as far back as January 2006.

He laughed when I joked that it felt like I had just won the lottery! I thanked him profusely and then said goodbye after greeting him 'Merry Christmas'. He was definitely laughing.

Rave #2

Summer has finally arrived in New York when the weekend weather topped the mercury at 93 degrees on Sunday. On Saturday my Brazilian mafia met up on the upper west side and we had a barbeque while watching the World Cup game between Italy and the US.

While everyone cheered for the US of course I was cheering my home team: Italy. It ended in a tie but it was one great game! Since the Yankees had really been playing a little less than Little League baseball lately, my focus had been on the games in Germany. And my true colors are showing: green, white and red! Viva Italia!

Rave #3

School has started in the Philippines. I found out last week that Gabbie has started attending her classes. Her mom says she enjoys it, jumps around with the kids and I feel bad missing this milestone. Suddenly I can't wait to get home in September when we will celebrate her 5th birthday and Liam's 2nd.

Rave #4

Things really got rough last week for me when my daughter had to go through an emergency surgery last Tuesday. I never really thought that I was too far being here in New York while the rest of my family are in the Philippines. I knew I could fly out anytime and there are numerous flights that leave for Manila - via Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea or anywhere else that can connect to my destination.

On Sunday when I was desperately trying to be out of New York in time to be by her bedside on Tuesday night, it was hopeless. The best flight my very able agent could get me was to leave Thursday and arrive Fiday night (he later found one for me to arrive Wednesday night).

In the end it was decided that I didn't need to travel. Francis had put together the best surgical team to work on Nicole and he supervised it so that she had the teeny tiniest of a scar. My sister Gigi was fortunately home for a visit and so she was Nicole's 'mom' for the occassion. Besides, I was such an emotional mess I would have been an added liability. And of course, my parents who doted on Nicole like she was their own daughter. Actually, way too much that she feels smothered as well even when I wasn't around.

Nicole is recovering quite well. She'll be back to school tomorrow, Wednesday, after being out of commission for a week and a half. I am totally in awe of this girl who continues to amaze me because while everyone of us had broken down with the stress and fear, she held herself strongest among us and was even was our source of comfort - assuring us that everything would be alright.

Thanks to those who put in their prayers: Vicky for the masses she offered in Manila, to John Moran for the special prayer session he held soon as I called to ask him for spiritual support. And the many others who kept me sane when it seemed almost impossible: Remy, Jiji, Wally, Renee, Joanna, Noel, Judith, others at work who are also my family in NY, Marco and most of all, my M.O. who tried to find me flights that would connect trans-Atlantic when trans-Pacific became impossible.

I learned: when the rains come pouring, you just need to hang on a bit to realize that the sun will come out eventually from behind the grey clouds.

Here comes the sun...I'm hanging on.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Family Weekend

After Memorial Day in the United States, it is unofficially summer and officially the start of the barbeque season. Barbeque season is the time when everyone has an excuse to binge on a steady supply of food from the grill - steak, chicken, burgers, hotdogs, ears of corn, fish wrapped in foil. Name it, toss it to the grill and it is feast food. And BINGED was what we did this weekend when we trooped to Erin's house in Astoria,Queens.

While Erin made sure that there was never a shortage of food for the famished guests, the rest of the gang ensured that none of those that were harvested from the grill remained unattended. We devoured everything in sight like Pacmans that someone had to be dispatched to to the nearby grocery to replenish stock when we ran out. Beer, however was in good supply. And kids....(but they weren't on the grill)

Barbeques are also rare occassions when we get the chance to mingle in your most casual with family, friends and families of friends. Gorgeous cute kids were the main attraction at Erin's party. We had a whole afternoon surrounded by babies and toddlers who were all in their best behavior and there wasn't a single temper tantrum from any. "Tricks you to wishing you had one of your own," we joked.

This was the first of many we will have this year. As we were rubbing our filled bellies while passing time on the cozy swing we had already started planning for the next one. Our main dilemma was location since a majority lived in the city where gas or coal fired grills were not allowed (not even on the fire escapes). The houses with backyards that could accomodate us were a car drive away from the city. But trust me, we will find a way.

For the meantime, we have to plan for the FIFA 2006 World Cup games starting this Friday.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Grey Weather

There hasn't been sunshine in New York City for a while. Since last week it had been mostly pouring rain or cloudy days.

Although today remained dry, the sun remained a no-show. I was walking along our office corridor that had an expansive view of midtown Manhattan when I must have thought loudly that there was "still no sun." I didn't know that JF was walking behind me until he seemingly replied to me that it was a "very depressing few days". Or maybe he had thought loudly too, I don't really know.

In my head I play a song from the Notting Hill soundtrack: ain't no sunshine when he's gone; it's not warm when he's away; ain't no sunshine when he's gone; he's gone much too long anytime he goes away...

Alone in the crowd and feeling cold even when I bundled the pashmina tighter around my shoulders. I looked to the heavens and wished the sun would take a peak and maybe it would help lift my spirits even for a while. But the clouds were thick, massive cottonly whites that in their volume was almost grey.

The music plays an endless loop in my head for the rest of the afternoon.

Monday, June 05, 2006


And then there are those moments in our lives when nothing is going right and it feels like the whole world is about to crumble. A time when sanity unravels and the final length of rope that keeps you from pawning your soul to the devil for some peace of mind is the same one that loops tightly around your neck that keeps you from dropping into the expanse of the darkness of some deep vacuum.

Even in my sleep my dreams had become exhausting - of running scared and desperate through the woods from some unseen enemy or helplessly trying to keep my head above freezing water with weary legs that can no longer kick to stay afloat.

With swallowed pride I opened myself up to a few trusted people and cried for help. For someone who had tried never to show her vulnerable self I felt exposed baring my desperation. It is a humbling experience to acknowledge that I had erred, that I had taken missteps and in some ways have taken the more challenging route to a life that had always been easy. The charmed life that my sister insists we have been blessed with has been eluding me for a while.

"Take care of yourself," the Italian reminded me. "You forget that the most important of all is yourself. You have to take care of you to take care of them. You have to keep some of the love for yourself instead of giving it all away," he said. "Keep some for yourself," he insisted in a worried voice.

He and I share a concentric variety of roles in the years we had known each other: artist and manager, artist and critic, artist and fan, parent and child, nemesis and foe, spy and spy, friends. I recognized the chuckle in his voice when he said that he would have to be the manager for a while so I would have no choice but to listen to him. And he insisted that I stop putting myself out to drain for a while.

And so for now I am taking care of me and will shut the weary world out until my soul is healed, my world is back in order and I am back to my old giddy self.

So please excuse me while I take care of me.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

City Parades

I realize that in the cycle of events in New York, if I cover them in my blog every year then I'd just have the same things over and over again. Like the Philippines Independence Day parade every 4th of June which we went to see today. Last year I went to see it also with Wally and walked the same route from 41st Street and Madison Avenue to the park between 26th and 25th Streets.

Probably because we had a terrible soaking yesterday, not too many people had come to see the parade this year, unlike last year. But this year though, we had become more wary of the over pricing of the food at the streetfair at the park. As we moved from one stall to another in search for something to drink, we were aghast at the pricing for watered down sago at gulaman, fresh buko juice or fresh melon juice. For the regular sized plastic cup most were charging $2.00. It was outrageous. Since Wally was from Queens, we might as well have boarded the '7' train and headed to Rene's Ihawan in Woodside and ordered the real deal in a tall plastic tumbler for $1.50!

New York celebrates the Philippines' Independence Day annually on the first Sunday of June. And since we share the same date with the city's Salute to Israel Day, we get to have our celebrations on Madison Avenue while the Israelis get 5th Avenue, the city's main parade venue. On the second Sunday in June, closer to the Philippines' actual Independence Day of 12 June, the city celebrates the much bigger and more rowdier 'Puerto Rico Day'. Makes you feel really important huh?