Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Woman's Life Journey

Reading her blog, Julia sounded to me like the typical ‘Kano’ who is adjusting to life in the Philippines. There is an amused awareness of the extremely diverse economic difference in the lifestyle in cities and that of the provinces. There is excitement in the discovery of the Tagalog language and so you try to inject the few words that become familiar into your everyday conversation. Often times, it is the common phrases that Filipinos use that easily get remembered like – ingat ka (take care); eto, buhay pa (well, still alive); the meals – almusal, (breakfast) tanghalian (lunch) and hapunan (dinner); and the family’s nanay, tatay, ate, kuya (or mother, father, older sister and older brother).

In her blog, she shares in her stories the enormous hospitality of the Filipinos to her group. As a member of the Peace Corps, she lived with ‘foster families’, often in economically challenged situations and in homes with hardly the basic essentials that people from the First World have been so used to that they take it for granted. It is a luxury for homes in provinces to have a flush toilet, a shower and air-conditioning. In her adventures in the Philippines, she acknowledges this in almost the same breath as her appreciation for her foster family’s warmth and generosity. Her ‘foster sister’ offers to wash her clothes (by hand, for sure and not with a washing machine). Her ‘foster parents’ sleep on the living room floor so she can have their bedroom. And she tells stories of how people are always happy, always finding the sunnier side of life despite the hardships. She enjoys her new celebrity status, when people constantly adored her caucasian features and greeted her "ma'am" or 'Julia Roberts'. Kids followed her around, adoring her and probably young pre-pubescent boys developing crushes on her.

I imagine that after 2 years, she had adapted well into the country that she has become familiar with the people and the culture. Definitely much different from the world she had known when she was still based in New York City.

Today on the bus I sat next to a woman who was on the cellphone ttalking to her friend and she was crying. It isn’t so unusual when you are in Manhattan to see people cry in public. People scream on their cellphones on the street, break up with their sweethearts in bars or do just about everything out in public. Everyone is their own soap opera here. But this afternoon, despite I was reading my book, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop when the woman began to narrate how her friend Julia might have fallen victim in the mountains of Batad.

Then I realized that she was talking about Julia Campbell, the New Yorker who traded her life in the city and to join the Peace Corps. In 2005, she was assigned to the Philippines and based on her blog has traveled around the country to help in various relief missions.

On 11 April, she decided to hike the rice terraces in the mountains of Batad and was never seen again. Today in the news, Philippines authorities are claiming that the decomposing body found in a shallow muddy grave might be Julia.

It is disheartening that the good intentions of a woman like Julia were reciprocated with such violence. I hope the world will not think that Filipinos in general would be so ungrateful. Like any other country, there are a few exceptions to the general – despite the many kind hearted, loving and genuinely good natured people living in constant struggle and hope for a better life, there are also a few whose minds are just twisted. Just like in any other place – in urban or rural setting, it is a matter of misfortune that had befallen her to have found a wrong turn on the road that led her to these hooligans.

In the wake of other stories that banner today’s headlines of lives wasted in senseless deaths, I wish we can all celebrate Julia Campbell’s life and how the people she had gotten to know in the Philippines have become part of her life. And I hope people will remember most about her would be how she had found a country that had readily welcomed her as one of them and how she had grown to call it her own.

My deepest sympathies to her family and the friends who grieve for her tonight.

Julia Campbell's Blog:

Picture credits are from her blog also.

Monday, April 09, 2007


"Dolphins are really just gay sharks"
My friend's t-shirt tonight. And yes, he loves Flipper and is proudly gay.
It was a hit at the new wine bar near here.
Also, check out "Pudding Stones" next time you are on the UES (3rd Ave. on 82nd).
Funny how even when I am not on Twitter I am writing like I am.
Imagine the reports I will be churning tomorrow at work.

Friday, April 06, 2007


I first saw this on Today Show and then it just suddely was all over. A very touching moment between a father and his 6 year old son when he surprises him, coming home from Iraq after a 7 month mission.

Take out the tissues because no matter how often I have seen it, it bring manages to tear me up.

Have a Happy Easter, everyone!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

DC, Peeps, Twitts, etc.

It's the end of the week at work, tomorrow being a holiday. Yes, we observe Good Friday as a holiday so it's a long weekend ahead. I'm thinking of traveling to DC tomorrow to bask in the beauty of the cherry blossoms now blooming along the Potomac. It is difficult to 'bask' though when the weather is closer to winter than to spring. Wind chills pull down the average tempratures on the East Coast closer to 32 degrees so it is much tempting to stay indoors.

DC is a quick 3.5 hour bus ride from Manhattan. There was buses that leave Chinatown every hour and a roundtrip ticket costs $35. Drop off in DC is about two blocks away from the Union Square Station and then a daily subway Metro pass is $5 so I am thinking of leaving NY at 730AM, spending the day there and then board the 7PM bus back to make it home by 11PM. Let's see how my mood is tomorrow when I wake.

Bunnies, colored eggs and kits to color them, colorful jellybeans and PEEPS!!!! They fill store shelves in bright pastels screaming Easter.

The peeps remind me of my daughter Nicole all the time. She is often here in the spring and she loves these marshmallow chicks. They are cute though, but marshmallows I think should be always be cyclindrical or cube-shaped, otherwise it is sacrilegious. How else can you make smores???

Francis invited me to join Twitter (my page here)and I did so now I have another blog, this time more like a mini-one. I have several blogs, actually - this one at blogspot, my Yahoo 360 profile and now, this Twitter. My thoughts, you can say is splattered all over the internet - hehehe.

The thing about Twitter is it limits you to 140 characters. The idea is that every moment that we go through in daily life must have a caption and the site is suppose to compile your collected musings. It is very addictive but I am constantly tempted to blog about the naughty and psycho stuff that flash through my head. So I try to self-censure. I need more friends though, so co-bloggers and those of you who are constantly reading and telling yourself that you want to start your own site - try Twitter.
Finally, if you have a google account, you should try to personalize your home page. It looks really cool and they have a lot of add-ons it is literally YOUR VERY OWN PAGE.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Beware of Global Phone

I don't usually complain but I'm telling you there are services here in the US that can really drive you up the wall.

As partner to our credit union, I had been a customer of Global Phone since 2001. Last month, I updated my credit card information with them after my old card expired and was issued a replacement. Imagine my surprise when after they had debited the cost of my overseas calls for the month ($25.00), they also charged my account $200 with no explanation? When I called up customer service to inquire about it, I was told that this was standard procedure to check if I had a balance in my card? WTF???? I have changed my card information several times before and I am sure I never had been 'checked' for $200 before. It was just outrageous!

I was so upset that I had sent an email to their Director for Finance, David Hartig who later reversed the charges and without apology! I did get an apology later on from their director for sales, Greg Hoagland but only the standard, we apologize for any inconvenience blah-blah. I don't ask for too much but perhaps in this day and age of identity theft scare, I think I deserved more. Like what? A sincere apology? An assurance that such erroneous charges were rare and they assure that this will not happen again? Their business is communications so they should know better. Such arrogance though that their final email to me was they would gladly reinstall my account if I decide to change my mind. PHOOEY!

And so like they say, just charge it to experience. So account closed you'd think I'd walk into the sunset and just live my life happily ever after? Hell, no.

Today, checking my account online I saw that I had been charged $2.08 by Global phone - yep, the company where I had closed my account a month ago. I received a statement on my work email and when I opened it realized I wasn't being charged for any calls because I had no calls made (of course) but I was being charged $2.00 as minimum charge for I don't know what (under the column that said description of charge - it was blank!!!) and 8 cents as tax for the charge that shouldn't exist. Can you believe that? I was so upset! It's not so much the amount but the whole principle of being charged for a service I don't have anymore, get it?

Honestly, I lost my cool and called up their customer service let off my steam without restaint. Yep, the Victoria taray I had not seen for a long unleashed her fury and they got an earful from me. I emailed David Hartig who I am sure will forward the email to their Director of Sales as SOP.

Tomorrow, I am going to my bank to cancel my credit card and just request for a replacement - the only way I can get rid of this pest of a company permanently from my life. Companies like Global Phone just turn out to be a recurring nightmare that haunts you right when you think it is safe again. They're like sharks!


Monday, April 02, 2007


I’ve been having stabbing pains on my right shoulder blade since Thursday. I tried to ignore it initially but ended up OD’ing on Aleve, Advil and if it persists, Flanax which I brought back from Manila. It had been so bad during the weekend that there must have been an hour that I was in bed on fetal position weeping and with my sweetie rubbing biofreeze on my back.

This morning I called my chiropractor and got an appointment for 3PM. I rarely take mid-morning or mid-afternoon doctor appointments because I always end up missing it. I have too much work that yes, I have re-scheduled too many dentist and doctor appointments. This time though, the 3PM was just fine. I needed relief.

My chiropractor and I go back since 2004 when I got involved in a baseball related injury. I was on the treadmill during the World Series Finals and Derek Jeter was on bat. He swung the bat and there was a sharp ping when the bat hit the ball and everyone was breathless as the ball took a trajectory into the outfield. As everyone in the stadium watched in bated breath, I stopped my jog. But the treadmill didn’t so I ended up on my behind on the floor. That was how I met my doctor.

He is a cutie, half-Spanish, half-Jewish but very American. He is also a New York Mets fan so he and I are constantly teasing each other about baseball. Today the first thing he bragged was the Mets jersey hanging in one of his consultation rooms signed by David Wright to “the best chiropractor” in New York. Unfortunately, after so much flirting with him, he got married last year. Oh, well.

After examining my swollen right shoulder blade, he put me on a pulsing machine and placed some warming layers on my back and left me for 15 minutes to the music of Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen’. Just before the timer sounded, he was back in the room and making my neck twist and my pushing down my spine until it made cracking sounds that can be frightening. But I guess when I trust my doctor I just let him do what he must in the hope I wouldn’t feel the spasm on my back anymore. After getting a scolding about being a ‘fair-weather’ patient, he made me promise to return on Wednesday for a follow-up. My case is so bad that he would have made me come back tomorrow but since it is Passover and he is half-Jewish, he would have to be observing the holiday.

Home early and feeling the warmth of the biofreeze on my back, I continue to feel the persistent throbbing pain. I wish I could reach my back for some real rubbing. I can always make my boyfriend’s back and neck pains go away when I massage them so I think it is so totally unfair that I have to see a doctor to get some relief from mine.

I know I may sound like I whine a lot but yes, I do need to whine about this one. I have pain tolerance so small I would scream in pain if pricked with a needle. This one is major however, considering I have already taken six caplets of 220 mg Advil today and I am still in pain.

Boyfriend says I should stop thinking about it so the pain would go away. Just now he told me to stop writing about it, too. It's a mental thing, he states. So now he is also a doctor. OK, so I will now log off and take my French language book and relearn some useful phrases. That would be less painful.

This must be how it is to be getting old... pain starts to set in. Then what? Oh brother....