Begin Again

 

It was the end of 2015, and I was doing what everyone else tends to do—reflecting on the year that was. I was feeling a little disappointed in how it rounded out;  I had put in a lot of work in many aspects of my life in the last year, only for things to slowly unravel in the end. It felt like I had all that effort and time invested in things that were important to me, and still it wasn’t enough.


I know I’m hard on myself. Most would probably say I had an awesome year—I traveled a bunch, did well at my job, made new friends, kept old ones, strengthened relationships worth having around, and severed ones that didn’t feel right anymore. But somehow, when you know you’re thisclose to getting more than what you expected, you let out a little sigh when you end up with just what you knew you were getting. Oh well.

But the wonderful thing about life is it’s full of new chances. Tomorrow is a new day, thirty days from now is a new month, and 12 months from now is a new year. We have so many chances to get it right, it’s just important that we keep trying.


And here I am, doing just that. I’m going to try to begin again.

Road Less Traveled

For a long time, I shied away from this blog. I stopped updating, writing, and even reading it altogether. I told myself, “I’m just too busy.” But all along, I knew what I was avoiding, too. I didn’t want to have to answer why’s and when’s and what’s, and I felt like opening up here would only lead to more questions. I simply wanted to dodge them because I didn’t have clear answers either. In my head, this was all temporary anyway. I can just actually talk about it when it’s all over.

But six months later, after all the decisions that got me where I am, I finally came to terms with it: this is my new normal.

And after half a year of adventures, independence, triumphs, and heartbreaks, I’m ready to get back on this and tell you about my daily grind.

Now from California,

Anne


Marb, Issa & Lee, Jr.

Finally at the tail end of entries about my first three weeks here–the real vacation time I actually booked for. That was almost a month ago and I’m severely late, but I just wanted to post about two special days I had while I was here, because they were days that I actually spent with Ateneo friends! YAY! 😀 I decided to split this post into two, kasi the more the merrier!

Marb and I started planning to meet up here even before I left for the US. I’m really glad it actually happened, and that we had a really big bonus there too, in the form of one Issa Perez de Tagle! WOOT WOOT!

Marb & I photograph beautifully, yes?

Marb picked me up from the house, and my cousins and titas were making a fuss about it because I brought an overnight bag with me. Magtatanan na ba daw kami? (Are we eloping? HAHA) But actually, i just brought an overnight bag’s-worth of PANSIT CANTON for him and Issa! (Friends of Marb and Issa, I gave them your pasalubong, too.)  I actually don’t have photos, but it was pretty funny when they saw how much I brought!

Marb picked me up, then we drove to Issa’s house. That whole thing was an ordeal in itself, as Issa couldn’t lock up her house, and then we couldn’t find Issa by the “malaking puno” (big tree), etc. All I remember is, there was a lot of jumping and laughing involved!

Ganda mo, ‘teh!

After that, we drove to Mr. Lee’s, a Korean BBQ place where they have eat all you can for $10. It was pretty damn good. Here, they don’t eat the barbecue with rice, but they gave us rice paper. Even that was REALLY good. Everything looked really plain though, I almost don’t understand why it was flavorful, you guys! T_T, emoticon necessary! I actually did eat ALL I could!

Cooking Master Marb

Favorite waiter, Lee, Jr.! Dami niyang palpak! He was so silly! HAHA

And the meal tasted waaay better after because when the bill arrived, Marb took care of it!

Here he is, signing that sh*t LIKE A BOSS.

After that huuuge meal, we decided dessert was in order, so we headed to an ice cream shop. That was my first time to a ColdStone in a long time, and apparently, I really really missed it! And it was unusually good too, because this time around, Issa treated me! HAHA Thank you, guys! 😀

“Ano ka ba, kaya nga kami nagtatrabaho para gumasta!” HAHAHA WINNER!

We settled in a Starbucks where Marb had coffee, just sat there and talked for a while. I have to say, I really missed talking to these two! We were thinking of heading down to the OC fair, but I had to be home early and the drive and admission just wouldn’t be worth it if we had to leave right away anyway.

Taking pictures outside the house. Di kami magka-intindihan!

Lookbook-esque photos by Marb. Art!

This was also the day when we found out that Sab & Jilli won the C&C TBFFs contest! So ginaya namin sila! HAHA

So the two of them drove out of my street, and we can only guess what happened after I left… 😉
JOKE LANG. HEHEHE. Thanks again, Marb & Issa! I know super late, but I really had fun! 😀


Six Flags & Sta. Monica

A couple of weeks ago, there was this status message going around Facebook about cousins–how they’re your first childhood friends, they’re the only ones who can understand the craziness of your family, and that your cousins probably beat out anyone else’s. How true! I guess it was only apt that I read that after spending two fun days with my first bestfriends and by-default barkada for life.

Though I’ve visited California quite a few times, I still like to play tourist each chance I get. I always make it a point to hit up Six Flags and a beach, any beach, whenever I’m here.

I started planning the Six Flags trip even before I left for the cruise, and thanks to speedy texting and Angelo’s awesome discount on the tickets, we were well on our way the day after I got back. This was probably my third or fourth time to Six Flags, but the first with this set of cousins. Basically, we walked a lot, rode a bunch of rollercoasters, ate expensive park food, and had lots of fun.

Guy on stilts…with a beak and feathers

We hit a water ride first so that we can dry off on the next ones. My shoes got wet, so I had to change to my very fashionable slippers. Kachichas? No thanks.

Next was Goliath, one of my favorites. It’s kind of hard to explain what happens in a rollercoaster, or it’s hard to make it sound different at least. Goliath has one of the highest drops, and I think it has a horizontal loop that’s close to the ground, creating a centrifugal force that pushes your arms down to your sides, if you like raising your arms up in the rides. (How dorky is that description? Hey, I tried.)

We all posed by this letter A from the Goliath sign because call our names start with A!

This new ride, Green Latern First Flight, is a headache and a half. The car has four seats, two back-to-back on each side, and spins as you go through the ups and downs, etc. etc. of the ride. But since there were only three of us in the car, the imbalance made the spinning less than ideal, making me absorb a whole lot of whiplash, good for two people. Thus, a headache and a half.

I finally got to ride the Superman, after all these years. The line was an hour’s wait, and the ride lasted all of 5 seconds. Was it worth it? Mmm, still can’t say.

That tall thing in the background, that is the end of the ride.
It just goes up and down, yeah. But really fast, and you go backwards, then forward.

At some point, we played some deceptively difficult carnival games, which earned us no prizes, aside from these capes (they’re free if you play). But do not be fooled, we had great fun wearing them for the rest of the day!

We also did this Wii game where we have to dance to Michael Jackson songs. I didn’t even know the song we danced to!  (It’s entitled “Ghost”. Though I’m an MJ fan, I’ve never heard this one…)

Did I mention that we went after a group of toddlers? Haha! There wasn’t a crowd when the kids were playing, but after our game, I turned around and there were more or less 20 people watching. We had fans!

The only place I was ever too tall for: Looney Toons Lodge

After that, we hit up the quintessential California burger join, In’N’Out. No actual pictures because we were busy devouring food, but here’s Christine, just to show how tiny she is, fitting in a baby seat!

The next day, I hit up Sta. Monica pier with other cousins. The last time I visited, it wasn’t this sunny, so I took advantage of the awesome weather and took many photos. (Plus, the guy who took me there last time didn’t want to take pictures. Boo.)

My cousin Ardelle and I.

The Smurfs movie opened that weekend, but I haven’t seen it still. Movies are hella expensive here, plus they don’t have reserved seating. (For the price you pay, I would expect they should!) So even if you buy your tickets early, you have to stay in line (sometimes outside the cinema building!) to get good seats.

This is my niece and goddaughter Alexa. She’s 5 years old, and she doesn’t like talking to people who are not kids!

Basically, we just went there to eat and take in the sights and sounds. It’s so different to go to the beach here. I really wish we had boardwalks in the PH. (And haha, Roxas Blvd and their attempt to make it a boardwalk doesn’t really count.)

Every Sunday, people would put crosses on the beach to honor the men and women who fell in recent wars fought in Iran and Afghanistan. There weren’t any crosses this time around because I went on a Wednesday. But the image of it is still etched in my head, because of the sheer number of crosses that I saw. It really puts things in perspective, especially that being Filipino, I don’t feel as affected as people who live here. After that day, I became pretty thankful that none of the crosses are for any of my cousins in the service.

Here with Ate Hazel, Alexa’s mom, and my pseudo-mom/big sister/older cousin. 🙂

After that, we hit 3rd Street Promenade, but not too many pictures because I got very distracted by H&M! In fact, that was the only place we went to there. Haha! Our last stop was The Grove. It reminded me of Bonifacio High Street, but fancier. They had a tram that went down the middle, like the ones you see in SF. We were supposed to head to Pampas for dinner, but they were closed. Instead, we headed to the most popular hotdog stand in LA, Pink’s.

They had all kinds of hotdogs and toppings, and had some combinations named after the popular people who made them–Martha Stuart, Ozzy Osborne, Rosey O’ Donnell, etc. etc. The guy we ordered from, in the top picture, wearing black, has some skillz. We rattled off our four different orders plus extras, and he got them. He didn’t even have to repeat them to us–and our orders were perfect. Amazing!

But of course, this reminds me of our very own Sausage Fest!

Because we all live far from each other, my cousins and I only really see each other once in three, maybe five years.  But true enough, my best childhood memories consist of us threatening each other with our lola‘s wrath, or singing in our make-believe girl band, The Rubber Bands, or taking our cue from old Milo commercials and learning how to cartwheel on a tiny wooden table. Glad to know that even if we spend so much time apart, we’re all still magkakabarkada.

Thank you to all my cousins who hosted me while I was in LA. I really appreciate that you guys went out of your way to see me and spend time with me. Group hug! 😀


Measure in ounces and miles

This post isn’t really about using cups and odometers, but rather life so far, here where mL and Km are pretty alien to many.

Let’s start with the obvious–the weather is great. I love NorCal weather. It’s sunny, but not scorching, and the temperatures are always relatively cool. I’d also like to think I’m beginning to really adjust to the climate, in general. When I first got here, I was always freezing, and we more or less have the same temperatures until now. Some nights are a lot colder, almost making my fingers go numb, but lately it’s been pleasantly chilly. And of course, everything looks different. Roses grow here. We have grapefruits in the backyard, and each house has a sprinkler.

Yes, the roads are nicer, and the trains, too. As for general safety, there are issues, but I’m not quite sure if we have the same ones. (I did see a druggie shaking in her car the other night.) Not as much trash, and most houses have nice gardens. My uncle even has a small pond that he made himself, where he keeps a turtle he got from PetSmart. We go to CostCo for big purchases, like a supply of cereal and table napkins, Safeway for last-minute buys and sudden cravings, Target for stuff in general, and Walmart for cheap thrills.

There are chores. I wash the dishes after every meal. The house is vacuumed and bathrooms are cleaned on Tuesdays, while the trash taken out on Thursdays, which is also laundry day. The washer only goes off when you shut the lid, the dryer shrinks your clothes, and holy smokes, Bounce sure smells like sunrise and hope. Movies are more expensive, but with the cable TV here, you will hardly need to get out of your house anyway. (But that’s sad, don’t do that.)

For the most part, life isn’t so different here. People eat more than thrice a day, drive to work, wait for the weekend, and do it all over again. Of course, things are not the same when you’re here just for vacation, because you always see the beautiful and exciting things. But I guess when you live normally here, you realize it’s not unlike Manila, how they go about their day.

But yes, the people are not the same. I find that it’s a bit difficult to relate to people you have no common culture with yet. There is no one to discuss the Ateneo-LaSalle rivalry with, and with the NBA lockout, basketball in general is pretty much out of the picture. (Plus, football is all the rage in the Fall.) You can’t always open up a conversation with, “So what music do you listen to?”, or “What books do you read?”, unless you’re in the music store or bookstore.

I guess the glaring difference is, I don’t really know anyone outside of my relatives. Not knowing many people means you spend a lot of time alone too, and if you’re not the type to be okay with that, then boo-hoo. Usually, you meet them through school, or work, or organization, all of which do not exist in my life at the moment. And then you meet friends of friends, and that gives you an instant connection, but you can’t have that if you don’t have friends to begin with.

But not knowing anyone is as much a blessing as it is a curse. You aren’t as conscious because your boss or your blockmate or your cousin’s friend’s classmate isn’t going to see what you’re doing with their judging eyes. No one thinks you’re acting out of character. Sometimes, it’s my favorite part about being away. It gives me the chance to breathe and feel and seem different without someone calling me out about it.

It’s too early to say really, how this whole trip will turn out for me. But so far, I can honestly say it measures up to what I thought it could be.


Usap-usapan

This morning, my Facebook and Twitter feeds were all a-buzz about this article by James Soriano. I understand that the author had the intention of sarcasm and wit, but I suppose his shift wasn’t as obvious as he thought it was. I had to read it over and over again to make sure I was getting his point. I do get it now, but still I feel like he didn’t make that distinction clear at all.

What I did get from this piece is how it spotlights the premium that what we put on the English language. Think of the various things the a good command of the English language stands for in the Philippines–one of them, a well-funded education.

However, I think it’s also important to realize why a lot of the learning that he talks about here, is in English. To begin with, our school system is patterned after America’s. The Spaniards did bring education to the Philippines, but remember that they kept it to the elite, while Uncle Sam made it available for all. (This is why your mestiza lola probably knows a little bit of Spanish, and your mayor doma doesn’t, but can speak English.) Maybe even more Filipinos can speak English better than Filipino, because they grew up far from  a place where it was commonly used. (Hello Cebu and Davao friends!) The effects of American colonization were really deep and far-reaching.

And yes, we don’t use Filipino in the boardrooms, operating rooms, and courtrooms because the systems we follow these days originate from the West. Progress is faster, and we have to keep up. We don’t have real words for ‘computer’, ‘fax’, and even ‘asymptote’ because formal study of these things were thought up in Western countries, where English is spoken. It only follows that we learn those things in the language in which they were taught to us.

But then again, when I look at places like Mexico, right next to the US, and see that they’ve successfully stuck to their native tongue as the vernacular. Even their biggest tourist destinations still have street signs and product labels in Spanish. I think it’s safe to assume that because they use their first language extensively in everyday discussion, they probably use it in school as well.

I’d like to think that the author and I pretty much had a similar childhood. While my mom didn’t require us to go to tutoring lessons and speak English at home, my brothers and I all attended exclusive schools and grew up to the Ninja Turtles, Cartoon Network, and WWE. We also learned to speak in Filipino at home because yes, we did have yayas (nannies) and drivers who talked to us in the language. Every weekend, we went to Batangas in the Southern Tagalog region, where my lola (grandmother) would berate us for being makulit (annoying), in her thick Batangueno-accented Tagalog.

I guess the difference is, I never viewed Filipino as “less learned”, or lesser at all. While it’s true, you hardly hear Filipino in supposedly the most educated discussions, I don’t think that it means it’s not the language of the learned. In fact, even in Ateneo, teachers who can discuss philosophy and theology get a lot of respect for being able to express themselves in the mother language. And we thought students who enlisted in their classes had major balls.

I’m not saying all this to put myself in a pedestal, high above James Soriano, because God knows I’m not the best Filipino speaker either. It just honestly never occurred to me that speakers of the native tongue were “lesser” people. Maybe because I’ve actually heard adults have deep conversations in Filipino, about life and politics. I also grew up with a lot of beautiful Filipino love songs , mostly sung in videoke bars that dot the metro. And unfortunately, many of the sermons I heard were drilled into my head in straight, scathing Filipino.

A lot people may not be able to discuss the ethics of a human person or the saddle-point theory in Filipino, but they sure can elaborate on a lot of other things in the mother language. Besides, many things you need to learn in life, you can’t learn from a book written in English.

Just my dalawang sentimo.


Viva Mexico!

I was kind of on the fence about going to this US trip, but one of the main reasons why I decided to go with my parents is because my aunts & uncles were treating them to cruise. OH MY STARS! (Navarro, 2010) I’ve never been on a cruise, but images of Geri Haliwell having the time of her life in her Mi Chico Latino video filled my head. There was no question about it–I had to go!

I didn’t know what to expect, but we were told to pack swimwear, formal wear, and charge our cameras. Our destination: Ensenada, Mexico! As soon as we approached the cruise ground lounge (where we get our passport processed, room key, etc.), I already felt the vacation vibe because they were playing–for a lack of a better word–tropical music. (Caribbean feel, with the bongos and all.) A few minutes later, we boarded the Carnival Paradise  and HOLY SMOKES, the boat was huge! EXCITING!!!

The boat had something like 12 floors. The lower seven were rooms for the 2,600 passengers on-board, and then the upper five were for activity areas like bars, restaurants, the pools and jacuzzis, gym, spa, etc. There was surprisingly so much to do on the Paradise–you probably won’t be able to try everything (unless you’re on a 15-day cruise!).

The hands-down champ of the Hairy Chest Competition

All of them are free, except when you avail of extras, like a massage or an alcoholic drink. You get the idea! It’s much like a hotel, only you look out and see a vast blue instead of a parking lot.

One thing you’re bound to do is eat EAT EAT. We had buffet meals three times a day. Even when we had sit-down dinners, our servers were so kind to give us more than one entrée if we wanted!

    As you can see, I’m not very good with remembering to take a picture BEFORE devouring food.

On our first night, the waiter gave me two desserts because I ordered key lime pie instead of their famous molten chocolate cake. And wow, this cake…It doesn’t look like much, but I have no words. I was already too full from the first dessert (and the meal itself!), so I asked if I could take the cake to my room an enjoy it later that night. It was that good, even without the ice cream.

Aside from that, they had a restaurant that was open 24 hours a day for pizza and hot sandwiches, and beverages. And you can take the food from the restaurant to your room. There is really no way you can go hungry on a cruise!

We were on the boat for four days, but we also spent one afternoon in Ensenada. The city is actually still so close to the US, that it also goes by the name “Baja California”. It’s a tourist destination because of the famous La Bufadora, or blowhole (like a geyser! boys, stop giggling), which is a half hour drive from the downtown where the boat docked.

It’s kind of hard to explain how the blowhole works, but it has something to do with how the rocks are shaped, the inflow of the water and air, and the receding of the water from the rocks. It results to water spraying to almost 100 ft upwards! Mother nature, you are the bomb! I don’t think I can upload videos here, but maybe I’ll post it on my Tumblr.

Around La Bufadora, there are lots of other interesting stuff, too. The vendors were selling ponchos and other ethnic and Mexican things. I bought a purple Mexican velvet sombrero for myself and luchador masks for my brothers and friends at home. I don’t have pictures of the items, but here are Rose and Paul wearing theirs:

I also had the best tacos in that area! I had another one in downtown Ensenada, but they weren’t as good. The tour gave us a complimentary limon margarita. I don’t say this often about alcoholic drinks, but I liked it! I could hardly taste the tequila, but it hit a few minutes later.  They had a yummy non-alcoholic pinacolada too, and fresh churros! Siyempre, pagkain nanaman inatupag ko!

Downtown, my parents and I went to a grocery store just to see what it was like. Of course, everything was in Spanish! I bought some really hot habanera sauce for pasalubong. I’m actually not a fan of spicy food, but the lady working there said it was good, and she was right! (Yeah, I actually tried it!)

After the grocery, we walked a couple of blocks down so I can have authentic horchata with rice bits in it. It was different from horchata that I’ve had in Mexican fastfoods before. As we were walking back to the boat, my parents saw these carts along the road and got curious. They were selling HUGE oysters, so they tried them. They were gooood. (I’m also not a fan of oysters, but had to try this time. No regrets!)

On other thing that made me enjoy the cruise was seeing all kinds of people living it up, etc. etc. People here surely take advantage of their vacation time. What I noticed was that most White, Mexicans, and Europeans really go all-out partying, even as early as 10am. On the other hand, Asians, Indians, and others would rather enjoy some quiet down time. I also find that the former seem friendlier, like they engage you in small talk and smile at you, while the latter tends to avert your gaze and keep to themselves. Hmm. Theories, anyone?

I was surprised by the number of Filipinos working on the cruise. Sobrang dami! Almost everywhere I turned, a crew member was asking me, “Kamusta?” or some variation of saying hello. It was nice, but at the same time, I could really feel how lonely they were while working on the cruise. Our server and our room steward were both Filipino, but they apparently didn’t know each other. Probably because they work something like 16-hour shifts, have only 30-minute meal breaks in between, and really need to rest on their spare time. I doubt they have days off because they’re on the boat for 6 months at a time.

I was interviewing our server, Arnold who’s from Bohol. He said that he used to work for a cruise liner that docked in Bohol, but after the terrorist attacks, the liner stopped going to the Philippines altogether. What a wasted tourism opportunity right there.

Nevertheless, you truly can see how they try to keep themselves positive. They even sang and danced for us during our dinners and were super accommodating to every request. And actually, they really made me enjoy the cruise more thanks to the extras they gave, just because I’m a kababayan. Nakaka-touch talaga!

I’d recommend going on a cruise to anyone, really. (Except if you get severely sea sick at the slight rock of a boat.) You really feel like you’re livin’ the life! Sobrang sarap! I’d love to go again, with friends this time.

Any takers? 😀