Saturday, September 30, 2006

My Top 10 Favorite Places in the World

Of the many places I have travelled to, I decided to just pick 10:

10. Tayamaan Cove in Mamburao, Mindoro – white sand and the most perfect spot in the world to snorkel and dive. I hope tourists never discover it and putting this up on the internet is just so wrong.

9. Napa Valley, California – there are magical elements about vineyards and wineries that just seem to whisper romance.

8. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and Intramuros, Manila
– similar in so many ways, they are old walled cities with narrow cobblestone streets and formerly established to be military strongholds. In its modern day transformation, both cities reverberate with rich history.

7. My bedroom in my parent’s house in the Philippines where I have a clear view of the Manila Bay, where the horizon is often dotted with sailboats and at dusk, a great big ball of orange sunset gently seemingly sinks into the waters.

6. Washington, DC – the city is dotted with many historically significant buildings where the masters of politics come to worship and yet is not a steel and concrete jungle. The buildings remain low enough that you can see the sky and each grand edifice stands as an island surrounded by shrubbery or some kind of greenery. To me it sort of softens the image and it is just perfectly beautiful in early spring when the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin are in bloom. And also, just nearby, the quaint little university town of Georgetown.

5. The Rose Garden at the United Nations, New York – in the spring it is just the most beautiful place in the world for me, surrounded by the burst of colors from the cherry blossoms that forms a grand arch on its west side and then the scent of the many roses in bloom on its south end. It looks out to the East River and in the summer it is the best location to enjoy the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks.

4. Sanibel Island, Florida – the thunderstorms may have scared the soul out of me but I loved the beach which was littered with millions of sea shells. It is a paradise where parrots would perch on trees oblivious to the human activity below them.

3. Vieux Lyon, France – another old city, another great favorite. The ambiance of this city just draws me to wish I could live here in my next life. Secret passages called tramboules weaves through its back alleys, previously used to safely transport silk from one location to another at a time when the city was the main centre for its production and trade. I loved the small plazas and its fountains and the Fourviere which is its upper city where a majestic ancient Catholic Church stands alongside convents, and the residence of the Archbishop and can be reached by a ride on the funicular.

2. Italy – “…..fairytales can come true, it can happen to you…”

1. Central Park, New York – this is my backyard in the city. I love coming here any time of the year : in the spring when it is bursting with colorful blooms, in the summer when it offers a reprieve from the heat and humidity, in the autumn when it is painted in yellow, red and gold and in the winter when it is veiled with pristine white snow. And the tennis courts are so definitely a great plus!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Worker Killed After Falling From Roof On East Side

September 28, 2006 : The employee of a scaffolding company died Thursday after officials say he lost his balance and fell 12 stories from the roof of 800 Second Avenue at 42nd Street at around 9 a.m.

The Department of Buildings says 21-year-old Jose Luis Melendez Gutierez of the Bronx just lost his balance on the roof and fell. The man's body landed on a lower rooftop, about two stories above the sidewalk. A fire chief on the scene says workers were in the process of either setting up or taking down the scaffolding at the time of the accident.

Melendez Gutierez was wearing a safety harness at the time, but it did not appear to be connected to anything. The Department of Buildings issued a stop work order for the site, but no violations will be handed out.

Someone died today.

No, I do not know him. I do not even know his name as Iam writing this. I only got to contemplating about his fate this afternoonas I was walking to lunch and passed by the corner of 42nd Street and 2ndAvenue.

"This is the spot where he died," my other friends told me. There was a huge pool of blood that morning and they had viewed this from the 24th floor window of our offices just across from the corner.

We only know that the guy was 21 years old. Did he wake up this morning and go throughthe usual routine he goes through everyday? He might have skipped breakfast, if he takes one, because he was running late. He hopped on the subway and bitched about the crowd or the delays in the train schedule. Did he also have a scowl on his face when he saw an officemate that he couldn't stand? Something that he must have been doing everyday at the sight of that person as I am apt to do whenever I see/hear someone I work with I can't stand.

Or maybe he woke up with grand thoughts and plans about his weekend, just happy that he had made it to Thursday and that he is just one more day away from some R&R. Did he have plans to propose to a girlfriend? Move to a new apartment? Reconcile with a neighbor? If he was single would this weekend he had hoped they'd finally be able to break the ice with someone he had eternally been flirting with? If he had a family, how would his young children live the first weekend that dad will not be around? This weekend, he won't be eating with his family or drinking with his buddies. Maybe he is a Mets or a Yankee fan - he wouldn't even know ifthere would be a subway series in October.

I have no idea how he looked like. I have no idea how he lived his life. At his funeral I am sure people will talk about the good things about him. His family and friends would probably utter something like, "he was a selfless goodman." I wonder however how his neighbors thought about him.

What would his enemies say about him? Isn't that the true measure of a person anyway?

So this morning a 21 year old guy left his house and went to work. And at 9AM, even before some of us made it to our desks, he fell from the scaffolding of the building at the corner of 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue. He fell 10 stories, one news website said. He fell 12 stories, another one said. It doesn't matter now really. He fell. He is now dead.

All that he had worked for all his life had ended at some city street corner. Some people stopped to see what the fuss was about, then rushed back to their lives, only momentarily thinking - that was one painful way to go.

Such is life.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Songs of the Sea

"Does the song of the sea end at the shore or in the hearts of those who listen to it...."

A quote from the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran. A beautiful passage and how appropriately placed in a peaceful cemetery that faces out to the Atlantic.

There is so much romance associated with the sea, the sunset that blazes its horizon or the emotions that stir in its heart - its rage in a storm or its calm sweet kisses to the shore early in the morning. I even love the smell of its saltiness. And how mysterious that it hides its many secrets including the many creatures it nurtures in its bosom.

On a very special weekend, I had the luxury to unwind in a place that is almost heaven on earth. It was my day, my friend said and so I was pampered - pedicured and manicured, groomed, massaged and steamed like dimsum in a spa.

And as my plane lifted off the stretch of runway to return me to the city, the echoes of the lapping waves against the shore stayed in my head. I smiled knowing that the songs from my weekend are not left behind and that they become embedded in my soul.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Another year older! Wiser? Am not really so sure - hahaha! One thing for sure I have started to count backwards. So in a few years I'd be ready to take off!

Birthdays always have a great way of drawing in friends -specially those who we hear from rarely, often just during birtdays (and funerals but then you don't really hear them - hahaha!). When I turned on my cellphone at the arrival gate of La Guardia, I had several voicemails including one of my sister singing/screaming Happy Birthday to me in a duet with my brother-in-law. And Francis emailed me 3 videos of 'attempts' to get Gabrielle and Liam to sing a 'Happy Birthday' to Tita Mavic. Well, the first shorts were hilarious ... Gabrielle playing the older/know-it-all sister showing off to her aunt with a tune and the younger sibling in the background goofing off, rolling around the floor in the background and just trying to ruin the objective of the moment. It was soooo funny!

To all the greeters, thanks so much! Yep! I am 22!!! (that was the lowest bid and I'm doing this in an unconventional way ).


And on my site meter hits 10,000. How cool is that?!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

In Retrospect

Five years.

Where have the losses of 9-11 taken us? What have we learned? What have we gained? What have we lost really?

And most importantly, have we healed from the pain that the events of this tragic day has wrought into our souls?

Every step forward towards healing we take several steps backward with another attack reverberating from another city - Paris, Spain, India, London, many others. Innocents are now the targets. And the enemy is varied - in faces and their ideology, their purpose.

Over the weekend, US media has played events of 9-11 over and over again. Is the purpose to sear our souls with that old stinging pain again? Doesn't it instead arouse anger and questions about why five years later we are nowhere, if not in worse situation?

Five years. After the memorials are erected, numerous ceremonies and much rhetoric we still have a huge empty hole in downtown Manhattan and questions that remain unanswered.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Birthday Reflection: 100 Things to Do Before I Die

  1. Attend at least one major sporting event: the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the U.S. Open.
  2. Throw a huge party and invite every one of your friends.
  3. Swim with a dolphin.
  4. Skydive. Gigi's forte... I have fear of heights.
  5. Have your portrait painted.
  6. Learn to speak a foreign language and make sure you use it.
  7. Go skinny-dipping at midnight in the South of France.
  8. Watch the launch of the space shuttle.
  9. Spend a whole day eating junk food without feeling guilty.
  10. Be an extra in a film.
  11. Tell someone the story of your life, sparing no details.
  12. Make love on a forest floor.
  13. Make love on a train. is my daughter reading this?
  14. Learn to rollerblade. – tried to learn but stopped just before I cut the blood supply in my friend’s arm
  15. Own a room with a view my bedroom at home in the Philippines had a fantastic sunset view of Manila Bay, my apartment now faces a park… I didn’t own but certainly owned and enjoyed the view during my stay.
  16. Brew your own beer.
  17. Learn how to take a compliment.
  18. Buy a round-the-world air ticket and a rucksack, and run away.
  19. Grow a beard and leave it for at least a month. Nah, this would be scary
  20. Give your mother a dozen red roses and tell her you love her. I buy my mom flowers not just on birthdays and special days; often just because and yes, I tell her and my dad I love them as often as I can.
  21. Be a member of the audience in a TV show.
  22. Put your name down to be a passenger on the first tourist shuttle to the moon.
  23. Send a message in a bottle.
  24. Ride a camel into the desert.
  25. Get to know your neighbors.
  26. Plant a tree. – The avocado tree behind my parent’s house
  27. Learn not to say yes when you really mean no.
  28. Write a fan letter to your all-time favorite hero or heroine.
  29. Visit the Senate and the House of Representatives to see how Congress really works.
  30. Learn to ballroom dance properly. Scheduled for winter 2006
  31. Eat jellied eels from a stall in London.
  32. Be the boss. Tech Pacific Philippines, Marketing Communications Manager 1998 - 2001
  33. Fall deeply in love -- helplessly and unconditionally. ALWAYS. There is just no other way to do it.
  34. Ride the Trans-Siberian Express across Asia.
  35. Sit on a jury.
  36. Write the novel you know you have inside you.
  37. Go to Walden Pond and read Thoreau while drifting in a canoe.
  38. Stay out all night dancing and go to work the next day without having gone home (just once). Oh, more than once – in Manila and in New York.
  39. Drink beer at Oktoberfest in Munich.
  40. Be someone's mentor. I think I have – right, Jai?
  41. Shower in a waterfall.
  42. Ask for a raise.
  43. Learn to play a musical instrument with some degree of skill.
  44. Teach someone illiterate to read.
  45. Blow all your savings and take a flight on the Concorde.
  46. Spend a night in a haunted house -- by yourself. You’re kidding right?
  47. Write down your personal mission statement, follow it, and revise it from time to time.
  48. See a lunar eclipse.
  49. Spend New Year's in an exotic location.
  50. Get passionate about a cause and spend time helping it, instead of just thinking about it. Breast cancer research – ACS Breast Cancer Walk 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006
  51. Experience weightlessness.
  52. Sing a great song in front of an audience. Song: The End of the World, Iligan City, March 1998 (Was a great song until I sang it)
  53. Ask someone you've only just met to go on a date.
  54. Drive across America from coast to coast.
  55. Make a complete and utter fool of yourself. ALWAYS
  56. Own one very expensive but absolutely wonderful business suit.
  57. Write your will.
  58. Sleep under the stars.
  59. Take a ride on the highest roller coaster in the country. No way – fear of heights
  60. Learn how to complain effectively -- and do it!
  61. Go wild in Rio during Carnival.
  62. Spend a whole day reading a great novel. A lot of times, most recently, Marley and Me by John Grogan and before that, Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  63. Forgive your parents. There had never been reason – my parents are the best in the world.
  64. Learn to juggle with three balls.
  65. Drive the Autobahn. Maybe this October?
  66. Find a job you love. I only do work that I love and that interests me – it’s my rule in life.
  67. Spend Christmas on the beach drinking pina coladas.
  68. Overcome your fear of failure.
  69. Raft through the Grand Canyon.
  70. Donate money and put your name on something: a college scholarship, a bench in the park.
  71. Buy your own house and then spend time making it into exactly what you want.
  72. Grow a garden.
  73. Spend three months getting your body into optimum shape.
  74. Drive a convertible with the top down and music blaring. Autumn 2005, New York Palisades
  75. Accept yourself for who you are. A work in progress
  76. Learn to use a microphone and give a speech in public.
  77. Scuba dive off Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
  78. Go up in a hot-air balloon. Fear of heights – no way!
  79. Attend one really huge rock concert. Summer, 2003 – Dave Matthews Band in Central Park
  80. Kiss someone you've just met on a blind date. Is my daughter reading this?
  81. Be able to handle: your tax forms, Jehovah's Witnesses, your banker, telephone solicitors.
  82. Give to a charity anonymously.
  83. Lose more money than you can afford at roulette in Vegas. No way!
  84. Let someone feed you peeled, seedless grapes.
  85. Kiss the Blarney stone and develop the gift of gab.
  86. Fart in a crowded space. Mwahahahaha!!! No way!
  87. Make love on the kitchen floor. Is my daughter reading this?
  88. Go deep sea fishing and eat your catch.
  89. Create your own web site. and
  90. Visit the Holy Land. Planned for Spring 2007, Tel Aviv & Jerusalem
  91. Make yourself spend a half-day at a concentration camp and swear never to forget.
  92. Run to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Security wouldn’t allow me
  93. Create your Family Tree. Did this for my daughter when she was born…needs updating though.
  94. Catch a ball in the stands of a major league baseball stadium.
  95. Make a hole-in-one.
  96. Ski a double-black diamond run. Snowboard counts???
  97. Learn to bartend.
  98. Run a marathon.
  99. Look into your child's eyes, see yourself, and smile
  100. Reflect on your greatest weakness, and realize how it is your greatest strength. A work in progress

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

True Bestfriends

I don’t buy books anymore. I go online and reserve them on and they email me when it is available at my library branch. I had reserved the book “Marley and Me” probably three months ago. I couldn’t believe why the cue was so long. Until last week, I was still #559 and the book was still with borrower #332. So when I went to Barnes and Noble last week I decided to get a copy of the book and brought it home.

During the long Labor Day weekend, I had taken it with me and fell in love with the sloppy Lab Retriever named Marley. Marley is clumsy, psychotic, almost retarded pet but an ever loyal and loving pet and the conditional love that he had shared with his family. Tonight after I finished the book I lay in my bed looking up at the ceiling and reminisced the many dogs I have had growing up and the memories that they had left with us. Despite that dogs are as individual as each person are, in all our dogs were a bit of Marley in many different ways. When the author, John Grogan related how the Lab had used all every ounce of determination to meet him at the door (as he always does) when it was struggling with debilitating arthritis, it was our St. Bernard, Boots who in the middle of giving birth got up to greet my dad when he came home from work (as she always does). When it was the mischievousness of tugging at the end of the toilet paper roll and then running into the room, it was our favorite Silky Terrier, Spock. When it came to their fierce loyalty and protectiveness, it was the Japanese Spitz Cookie and our part-time mutt at the farm, Whitey who ensured strangers kept their distance from us when we stayed on the beach away from the house after the sun had set.

The book have lit up that part of my soul that I had let slip away. The appreciation for the love and dedication of the purest kind. I miss the many dogs with whom I had shared many secrets with, cried about ex-boyfriends with and just maltreated with cruel high-pitched screaming when there was no one else to blame for the misery that ladens a young adolescent ugly duckling in transition (still awaiting full transformation, by the way, 20 years later).

Of course, I could get a dog in New York. I just don’t think it would be practical and fair for the animal. My lifestyle doesn’t encourage another dependent. I don’t think I have the time and resources. Dogs need to be walked – regardless of the weather, in the morning and at night. I don’t even know what time I will go home until I am home! Dogs need consistency that I cannot have. And when they do their thing, New York law requires owners to pick it up from the sidewalks and to throw it in the trash. I am major squimish. They need food, medical attention – all additional expense, and a slice I cannot find from my already stretched paycheck. And when I make my annual sojourn to Manila, who will look after it for 4 weeks? My plants would die every time I go home to the Philippines if I didn’t bring it to the office and remind people to water it!

But I miss having a dog, a loyal someone who would surrender himself and love unconditionally. Nothing puts it more precisely than how John Grogan had closed his story about his 13 year old Marley:

“… was it possible for a dog ... to point humans to the things that really mattered in life? I believed it was. Loyalty. Courage. Devotion. Simplicity. Joy. And the things that did not matter, too. A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges other not by their color, creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you’re his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not….sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners and pure intentions to help us see.”

Blogger's note: After you have read his book, don't forget to vote for it for the Quill Awards, you have until 30 September to give it the acclaim it deserves!

More of Marley the dog! (scenes from the movie he 'starred' in!)