Tracing Vicki Belo’s Wedding Trail

We Filipinos are fond of fairy tales. The wedding of celebrity doctors Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho in 2017 was nothing short of a fairy tale. At least in the place and setting where it happened.

(above photo taken from the web)

I was waiting for my invitation to that great event but I think the mailman misplaced it. On second thought, maybe I was not really invited.

So I did the next best thing, I visited the place where the wedding reception was held. It was in the Opera House in Paris, or also known as Palais Garnier.

This 19th century architectual masterpiece was built by Charles Garnier and opened in 1875. Today, it is home to Paris Ballet, and besides being a venue for great art performances, it is also open for visitors to tour. Well, I guess it can be rented for a wedding reception too.

It was almost closing time when we got to the Opera House, and so we did not have much time to roam, but just enough to get a feel of this grandiose place.

Here’s the majestic staircase where Belo and Hayden did their magical wedding dance.

Of course I had to climb up those steps as if I’m in a fairy tale story too. My wife and I did not dance though on those stairs for we might stumble and fall, and end up in a tragic tale instead.

Here’s the grand foyer (photo below) where the wedding banquet and tables were set up. The newly wed couple and their guests dined under these intricate painted ceilings and opulent lights.

As I said, this is an Opera House, so here’s the auditorium that can sit 2000 people and where the real magical performances are happening.

Below is an interesting Christmas tree made up of ballet shoes which was displayed during our visit. I have no idea what the golden tractor tires are for.

There is also a mystery surrounding the construction of this palatial edifice that facts and fictions are blurred. The famous tale of the “Phantom of the Opera,” a classic novel by a Frenchman, Gaston Leroux, a story that was retold in so many ways was inspired from the history of Palais Garnier.

We roamed around the halls perhaps looking for traces of Belo or perhaps searching for the phantom, until a lady with a bell called everyone still inside the opera house announcing that it was time to close. We were among the last ones who exited the place that night.

The Phantom?

I know this place was already enchanting even before Belo rented this place. Maybe someday I’ll have my birthday bash or a wedding anniversary here. Alright, I’ll dream on.

From Belo’s wedding reception place, albeit two years too late,

Pinoytransplant.

(*photos taken with an iPhone at Palais Garnier, Paris)

Sakit sa Balakang, Sambong, at Badjao

Isa sa pinaka-mabentang artikulong inilathala ko sa blog na ito ay ang “Question and Answer: Sakit sa Balakang” (posted Sept 2016). Hanggang ngayon ay mahigit sa 100 tao kada araw pa rin ang sumisilip sa artikulong ito. Marami talaga yatang may masakit na balakang sa ating mga Pilipino. Bakit kaya?

Dahil marami pa rin ang nagtatanong tungkol sa sakit sa balakang, at dahil halos magkakatulad naman ang mga katanungan ay tumigil na po akong sagutin ito ng isa-isa. Pero naglathala naman ako ng aking pang-finale na sagot, “Sakit sa Balakang: Final Answer” (posted Aug 2018).

May natatanggap pa rin akong mga tanong sa sakit sa balakang hanggang sa ngayon, pero dedma na lang po ako. Pero noong nakaraang ilang linggo ay may nagtanong na hindi ko yata kayang palampasin lang, dahil maraming anggulo ito. Kaya’t heto na naman ako, sasagot muli sa isang katanungan.

Ito ang tanong ni Rowena (last name witheld).

Good day po.

Dati po bewang ang medyo masakit na parang ngalay sa akin ng mga nakakaraang araw. After ilang days sumakit po balakang ko sa bandang kaliwa lalo na pag nahakbang ang kaliwa kong paa. Nag pa-check up po ako at may UTI daw po ako. Niresetahan ako ng antibiotic at sambong. Pero kinagabihan lalo tumindi ang sakit.

At bago po nangyari ang lahat, meron po kasing nanghihingi ng limos na babaeng Badjao na may dalang bata. Hindi ko po s’ya nabigyan dahil wala akong barya. Para po siyang nagalit. Bago umalis tinapik po niya ako sa kaliwang bahagi ng balakang.

Nalilito na po ako at nahihirapan. Kaya po nag-search ako at baka may makatulong sa akin. Maraming salamat po.

Dear Rowena,

Sa iyong pagpapahayag ng iyong sintomas, sa aking tingin ay may kinalaman sa galugod (spine) ang dahilan ng iyong sakit sa balakang. Lalo na kapag gumagapang ang sakit sa hita at paa, at kung tumitindi ito kapag naglalakad. Maaring naiiipit ang ugat (nerve root) sa galugod kaya’t sumasakit at parang nangangalay.

Paki-basa na lang ng buo iyong artikulo kong Question and Answer: Sakit sa Balakang para sa mas kumpletong paliwanag at iba pang sanhi ng sakit sa balakang.

Kung ito ay UTI o kaya’y bato sa pantog o daanan ng ihi, maaring makaranas din ng matinding sakit, ngunit ang sakit ay hindi dapat gumagapang hanggang paa. Kung may iba pang gumagapang o nang-gagapang sa iyong hita, eh baka pulis na ang iyong kailangan.

Hindi ako pamilyar sa sambong, kaya’t ni-research ko pa kung ano ito. Ito ang aking napag-alaman tungkol sa sambong:

Ang sambong ay isang mabangong halaman. Ang scientific name nito ay “Blumea balsamifera” o “Blumea camphor.” Ito ay may medicinal properties. Isa rito ay ang diuretic effect – ito iyong nagdudulot ng pagpapaihi. Maari itong makatulong sa UTI o kaya para mailabas ang bato sa daanan ng ihi.

Dahil ang sambong ay mayroong methanolic compounds, ito ay nakakatulong din sa ubo at sipon. Ito rin ay may antibiotic properties dahil ito ay naglalaman ng cyptomeridiol at ichthyotherol acetate. Hindi naman siguro dahil sa sambong kaya’t lalong tumindi ang sakit ng iyong balakang, maliban na lang kung tumungga ka ng balde baldeng tsaa ng sambong ay maari itong makasikmura.

Tungkol naman sa mga Badjao, sila ay isa sa mga diskriminadong katutubong lahi ng tao. Sila ay kilala na “Gypsies of the Sea,” dahil sila ay nakatira sa mga kubo sa dalampasigan o kaya’y sa mga bangka na matatagpuan sa Sulu Sea. Ang kanilang kabuhayan ay ang pangingisda o pagsisid sa mga perlas.

Dahil sa digmaan, politikal na mga isyu, diskriminasyon, at komersyalisasyon ng pangingisda, sila ay natataboy sa kanilang tahanan sa karagatan. Marami sa kanila ay umaalis sa kanilang tradisyonal na lugar at nakikipagsapalaran sa mga barrio at lungsod.

Photo of a Badjao girl that went viral (image from Rappler)

Alam kong may mga Badjao na gumagala-gala sa mga siyudad at humihingi ng limos. Hindi ko alam kung ginagamit pa sila ng mga sindikato. Ngunit huwag naman po sana natin silang paratangan na mayroon silang dalang sumpa o kulam sa mga taong hindi sila napagbigyan, o mga taong hindi nila nagugustuhan.

Una sa lahat, hindi po ako naniniwala sa sumpa ng Badjao. Pangalawa, hindi na nga natin sila matulungan, napag-iisipan pa natin sila ng masama at inaakusahan na nais nila tayong saktan.

Rowena, alam kong naghahanap ka lang ng kasagutan sa iyong nararamdamang sakit, ngunit ako’y nakatitiyak na walang kinalaman ang pagtapik sa iyo ng Badjao. Pero kung sinabi mong hinambalos ka o tinadyakan ka ng Badjao, ay ibang usapan na iyon, at maaaring mo siyang paratangan na sanhi ng iyong sakit sa balakang.

Hanggang dito na lamang po muli, at salamat sa patuloy ninyong pagtangkilik.

Pasko Sa Talyer: Isang Pag-Aala-ala

Pasko na naman, miss ko na naman ang Pilipinas. Pitong taon na pala nang huli kaming mag-Pasko sa atin. Pero kakaiba ang aking karanasan noong huli akong mag-Pasko sa Pilipinas. Gusto ko lang itong alalahanin.

(Ang orihinal an akda ay nalathala Disyembre 2014)

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Disyembre 25, araw ng Pasko. Ako ay nakaupo sa isang kahoy na bangko. Sa paligid ko ay grasa, mga lumang gulong, kalas-kalas na makina ng kotse, at kalat-kalat na kasangkapang pang-mekaniko.

Ako ay nasa loob ng talyer.

Ano kamo ang ginagawa ko sa talyer sa mismong araw ng Pasko? Naghihintay! Hindi kay Santa Claus, kundi sa aming sasakyan na nasira. Ito ang aking kwento…..

Matapos ang maraming taon na lumagi sa Amerika, at matapos maranasan ang maraming “White Christmas,” kami ng aming pamilya ay umuwi upang mag-Pasko sa Pilipinas. Mula sa Maynila ay umarkila kami ng van upang dumalaw sa aming mga kamag-anak sa Ilocos Norte at Ilocos Sur.

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Pagkatapos naming mag-celebrate ng bisperas ng Pasko at makipag-Noche Buena sa Vigan, kami ay dapat magbibyaheng pabalik sa Maynila upang doon naman magdiwang ng araw ng Pasko kasama ng mga kamag-anak at kaibigan sa Metro Manila.

Ngunit napurnada ang aming plano. Nasira ang aming arkiladong sasakyan. May tumutulo sa ilalim ng makina. May butas daw sa karburador ng aming van.

Ginalugad namin ang buong Vigan upang humanap ng bukas na talyer, ngunit lahat ng aming puntahan ay sarado. Sino nga bang kumag ang gustong magtrabaho ng Pasko?

Naalala ko tuloy si Jose at si Maria na malapit nang manganak, noong kauna-unahang Pasko, sila ay naghahanap ng silid na matutuluyan doon sa bayan ng Bethlehem, ngunit wala silang nakita kundi isang kuwadra. Mapalad nga kami mayroon kaming tinulugan at talyer lang ang aming kailangan.

Matapos naming puntahan ang apat o limang service station at talyer, ay nakatagpo rin kami ng isang lugar na pumayag na kami ay pagsilbihan.

Sumalubong sa amin sa pinto ng talyer ay isang babaeng may kargang bata. Sabi niya ay may binili lang sa palengke ang kanyang mister, na siyang mekaniko doon sa naturang talyer.

Hindi nagtagal ay dumating na ang isang mamang nakamotorsiklo. Siya ay may bitbit na kalahating isda na lapu-lapu at iba pang rekado. Siya ang aming hinihintay na mekaniko. Pagkatapos niyang iabot ang mga pinamili sa kanyang maybahay, kami ay kanyang malugod na hinarap at inasikaso.

Hindi rin nagtagal ay sinumulan na niyang buting-tingin ang aming sirang sasakyan. Walang makikitang bahid ng pagkabugnot si manong. Sa katunayan ganado at pasipol-sipol pa ito sa paggawa, kahit amin siyang binulabog sa araw ng Pasko.

Lumipas ang isa…..dalawa…..tatlo……apat na oras……patuloy pa rin sa mano-manong pagkukumpuni ang aming mekaniko. Hindi pa rin tapos ang aming sasakyan. Hindi “White Christmas” kundi “Wait Christmas” ang nangyari sa amin.

Aaminin ko, ako ay nayamot sa kakahintay. Hindi lang siguro yamot kundi galit pa ang sumagi sa aking isip. Bakit ba nabutas ang hinayupak na karburador? Hindi ko kailangan ito! Hindi ako naglakabay ng malayo, lumipad ng eroplano, tumawid ng dagat upang mag-Pasko lamang sa talyer!

Ngunit may leksiyon yatang nais ipahatid sa akin ang Diyos sa Paskong ito.

Sa aking paghihintay, ay wala akong ibang libangan kundi magmasid sa loob ng talyer. Sa isang sulok ng talyer ay isang maliit na silid na mahigit lamang sa isang dipa ang luwag. Dito marahil nakatira ang pamilya ng aming mekaniko. Sila ay may dalawang anak. Tunay na masikip at halos kasya lang silang apat matulog doon.

Ang nakatatandang batang babae, ay marahil apat o limang taong gulang. Madusing ang kanyang kasuotan, ngunit masaya itong naglalaro sa loob ng talyer, sa gitna ng lupa at grasa. Matahimik itong gumigiling-giling sa sariling niyang tugtog at himig. Siya ay kontento sa maliit niyang mundo. Alam kaya niyang Pasko ngayon? Meron kaya siyang pamaskong natanggap?

Ang bunso naman ay halos sanggol pa lang, ay natutulog sa nakalatag na banig sa munting silid. Si Santa Claus at mga lumilipad na reindeers kaya ang kanyang panaginip? O baka naman lumilipad na ipis? Ano naman rin kaya ang napamaskuhan nito?

Habang nagtratrabaho si mister sa aming van, ay nagluluto naman si misis sa kabilang sulok ng talyer. Marahil ang kalahating lapu-lapung binili sa palengke ang kanilang pagsasalu-saluhan sa Paskong ito. Meron din naman silang konting buko salad na nasa maliit na tupperware at may isang pitchel na iced-tea rin silang handa.

Inalok pa nga ako ng buko salad at iced tea ni misis, ngunit nahiya naman ako’t akin itong tinanggihan.

Kahit kakaunti, sila ay maligaya at handa pa nilang ibahagi ang kaunting meron sila. Ako kaya? Maligaya ba ako ngayong Pasko? Hindi! Naiimbiyerna at nagmumukmok ako dahil sa nadiskaril ang aming mga plano. Sino kaya sa amin ang may tunay na ispirito ng Pasko?

Hindi kalaunan ay nagising na ang bunsong bata. Maya-maya pa ay malikot na itong pagapang-gapang sa sulok ng talyer. Nang aking tanungin kung ilang buwan o taon na ang kanilang bunsong babae, ay napapahiyang sinabi ng aming mekaniko, na lalaki at hindi babae ang kanilang bunsong anak. Nakadamit babae lamang daw ito, dahil wala silang mapasuot na damit kundi mga pinaglakihan ng kanyang ate.

Parang biglang winalis ang aking pagkayamot. Wala akong dapat ireklamo.

Hindi na nagtagal at natapos na ring kumpunihin ang aming sasakyan. Sa wakas makakabiyahe na rin kaming pabalik sa Maynila. Sa wakas matutuloy na rin ang aming selebrasyon ng Pasko!

Ngunit mas mahalaga sa lahat, ay mayroong kakaibang damdamin ang umusbong sa aking puso. May kakaibang pananaw ang nabuo sa aking isipan. Matapos sumahin ng mekaniko kung magkano ang aming babayaran, ay may bago nang ispirito ng Pasko ang naghahari sa aking katauhan.

Pinasobrahan ko ang bayad na aking inabot, sabay sambit ng “Salamat at Maligayang Pasko sa inyong pamilya.”

Abot-tenga ang ngiti ni manong, sabay bati rin ng “Merry Christmas sir! May pambili na nang bagong damit si bunso.”

Mula sa sabsaban, isinilang ang ating Manunubos. Mula sa talyer, ako’y pina-alalahanan ng tamang diwa ng Pasko.

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(*photos taken in Vigan, Christmas 2012)

Authentic Filipino Chair

My wife recently replaced our kitchen counter stools for they were worn out from years of use. The seat area had thinned out with some of the sea grass weaves torn or missing. We’re afraid that one of these days those seats might give out and we end up falling to the floor. Or worse, a visitor would fall to the floor.

When we were looking for replacement chairs, we decided to have an authentic Asian-inspired furniture. We thought that it should be made of yantok sticks, or bamboo, or rattan. Though we are not living in the Philippines anymore, we hope that our chairs will at least give us that Filipino-feel.

We have several Philippine-inspired items in our home besides my old barong that is collecting dust in the closet. We have an abaca runner on our dining table. We have capiz table plate mats that we bought from the Philippines. We also have the sungka (Filipino mancala game) that we placed atop of the center table in our living room which many of our guests are interested to learn how to play. We even have a parol made of capiz that was given to us years ago and we hang it every Christmas on our window.

So my wife searched high and low for new kitchen chairs. She looked for them in our local malls and furniture stores. She also searched the internet. If only she could visit the furniture shops at Calle Crisologo in Vigan, I believe she would. But finally she found what she was looking for.

When the chairs were delivered, I thought they were Asian- inspired alright. The stools are made of wood, almost like yantok, and the seat is made of woven strips like banig. When you move them, they even create that certain sound from our wood floor that is reminiscent of what we had in the Philippines. Beside being beautifully-crafted, they are sturdily-made as well.

However, they did not look like the popular chairs in the Philippines, the ones made of bentwood and solihiya rattan, that are so ubiquitous you can find them on every provincial home or rural carinderia. So I teased my wife that our chairs are not authentic enough or Filipino enough.

Few nights ago, when we were having dinner, I was a little excited as my wife cooked kare-kare, which we infrequently have except on rare occasions. I know the dish is rich and delicious (pamatay sa sarap), but too much and too often could be too rich for the coronaries (pamatay talaga).

We didn’t have bagoong that night, instead we had patis (fish sauce) to add to the flavor of the kare-kare. In my haste, I accidentally tipped the bowl where the patis was and it spilled into the countertop. The patis even flowed over into the new chair! Needless to say, the whole kitchen stank like patis.

Even after wiping the spilled patis, the smell lingered. The new chair smell like patis too. That might have added authenticity to the chair and I think they are now Filipino enough.

Thoughts From An Old Couch

Where do old couch go?

Few days ago, my son and I carried out our old couch to the end of our driveway for waste management to pick-up. Would it be recycled into a new form or would it rest in a land fill? I don’t know. This is not the first time though, that I have dealt with a couch on a curb.

About two and a half decades ago, I came to United States on a training visa to start my medical residency. I had one suitcase in hand which was all my belongings plus a few dollars in my wallet. Leaving our home in the Philippines, I arrived in Morristown, New Jersey and stayed with another Filipino medical resident whom I just met. I crashed at his apartment for I have no place of my own.

One day we saw a couch left at the street curb to be picked up by the garbage collector. Seeing that the couch still has some life left on it, I thought it could be of use to me. My friend and I scooped up the sofa before the garbage truck could pick it up. Of course we inspected it first and it passed our visual and smell test.

A month later after I received my first paycheck, I was able to move to my own apartment. My friend and I transported the couch from his residence to mine which was 1 kilometer away. No, we did not load it on a truck for we had no truck. We carried it through that distance. Even though it was not that big, it seemed that it got heavier and heavier as we went further along. Especially considering that we were two scrawny and muscularly-challenged guys.

Good thing was, midway, somebody saw us struggling with our load. She flagged us down and asked how far we were going. We were actually already sitting (and panting) on the couch taking a break at the side of the road. The lady lent us a furniture dolley so we can roll the sofa instead of lifting it, and she said to just bring it back when we’re done. That was nice of her. That was one of my first impression of that place – that people were nice and trustful of their neighbors.

The lady even asked if it was some kind of a special “oriental” couch that we were transporting. Perhaps she was wondering if it was that valuable that we would go through all that trouble. If only she knew that we just picked it up from the street curb.

Several months later, my wife got her visa and came to America to join me. We used that salvaged couch for a couple of years. When we moved to New York, we did not bring it along anymore. We left it at a street curb for the garbage collector or perhaps somebody else to pick up. Did it find another owner? I don’t know.

We moved several more times since then and in fact, we had 10 different address changes until we finally moved to our current address. It seemed like we were in a witness-protection program that we kept on moving, roughly every year. However, we are living in our present home for 14 years now and counting.

Regarding this couch that my son and I just placed at the curb, we bought it when we were still in Florida after we moved out of California. We got it on a clearance sale. We really did not care about its blue color, but my wife thought she could make a cover for it. Her family’s business when they were growing up in Pampanga was making drapes and seat covers. After she made a phone call to her brother and asked for some tips, she sewed a white fabric cover for our couch. It turned out pretty good actually.

We hauled this sofa along when we eventually moved here in Iowa. We have sat on it, lounged on it, spilled food on it, my kids barfed on it and I spent many lazy days sleeping (and drooling) on it. Over the years of use the covers that my wife made got torn and for a long time now we were just tossing a white blanket over it. It has seen better days and now it is time for it to have another life apart from us.

As we placed our couch at the curb, I sat there for a few moments, reminisced, and watched as the season (and our life’s season) turns. There are so many things to be thankful for. Including old couches.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Tag-lagas: Isang Balik-Tanaw

(Nais ko po muling balikan ang isang akda na aking isinulat walong taon na ang nakalipas, inilathala Oktubre 7, 2011.)

Lumalamig na naman ang simoy ng hangin dito sa amin. Tumitingkad na rin ang mga kulay ng mga dahon at nagiging ginintuan at pula. Unti-unti rin silang nalalagas, nalalaglag at kumakalat sa lupa. Dahan-dahang namang kumukupas ang mga luntiang kulay ng damo sa aming paligid.

Lipas na naman ang tag-araw. Hindi magtatagal ay tagginaw na naman. Lilipad na naman at babalut sa kapaligiran ang puting niyebe.

Nakaupo at nakahalukipkip sa isang sulok ng aming tahanan ang aking nanay. Siya ay dumadalaw sa amin dito sa Amerika, at mahigit dalawang buwan na rin siyang namalagi dito. Ito ay pangatlong pagkakataon niyang makarating dito sa aming lugar. Ang unang dalaw niya dito, mga ilang taon na ang nakalilipas, ay sa kalagitnaan ng tag-lamig, dahil gusto raw niyang masaksihan ang niyebe. Ngunit dahil sa sumusuot sa butong ginaw ng tag-lamig dito, ay ayaw na niyang manatili at maranasang muli ang tagginaw.

Dahil na rin siguro sa kanyang edad, ay hindi na siya mahilig mag-lalabas at mamasyal. Pinipili pa niyang umupo sa isang tabi at maiwan na lamang sa loob ng aming bahay. Masaya na siya sa panonood sa kanyang mga apo, o dumungaw sa bintana at magmasid sa kapaligirang mundo na patuloy sa pag-ikot. Maaring maligaya na siya na magbalik tanaw na lamang sa mga kasaysayan ng kanyang buhay.

Lahat ay nagbabago. Walang sinisino.

Malaki na rin ang ipinagbago ng aking ina mula ng ako’y unang tumulak parito sa Amerika. Hukot na ang kanyang tindig. Mahina na ang kanyang mga kamay: mga kamay na minsang panahon ay malalakas sa pag-aaruga sa aking kabataan. Malabo na rin ang kanyang mga mata: mga matang minsa’y kay linaw sa pagbabantay noon sa aking kalikutan. Purol na rin ang kanyang pandinig: mga tengang dati-rati ay matalas na dumidinig ng aking mga iyak at tawag. Mabagal na rin ang kanyang mga hakbang: mga hakbang na noon ay mabibilis sa paghabol sa aking kamusmusan, para ako’y malayo sa panganib.

Pana-panahon lamang ang lahat, ika nga nila. Ang oras ay tumatakbo, hindi naghihintay kaninuman.

Ilang araw pa ay tutulak na muling pabalik sa Pilipinas ang aking nanay, parang ibong manglalakbay na lumilipad patungong timog upang tumakas sa nagbabadyang masungit na taglamig.

Hindi ko alam kung ilang pag-kikita at ilang pag-papaalam pa ang nalalabi sa amin. Panahon lamang ang makapagsasabi. Sana ay nakapagdulot ako ng kasiyahaan bilang isang anak sa aking ina. Ito lamang ang pinaka-matamis na ala-alang maipapabaon ko sa kanya.

Hindi magtatagal ay mauubos at mahuhulog na rin ang lahat ng dahon sa mga puno, at matitira na lamang ay mga hubad na sanga at tangkay nito. Mananatili itong pawang tigang at patay…… hanggang sa panahon ng tag-sibol at muling magsisimula ang panibagong buhay.

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(*Post note: Ang aking ina ay tuluyan nang namaalam tatlong taon matapos kong isulat ang akdang ito.)

(**autumn photo taken from the web)

A Taste of Home

There are certain things that can evoke strong feelings of homesickness for Filipino expatriates like me. For some it may be witnessing the Manila sunset at Manila Bay. For others it could be the traditional Filipino foods. Maybe for some it is the “fragrant” smell of the kanal and estero (kanya-kanyang trip lang yan).

Last week, I ate some traditional Fililipino food and saw Manila sunset. Manila Sunset Grille, that is!

Manila Sunset Grille is a Filipino restaurant chain with branches mostly in California. I wish they would expand here to the Midwest. Maybe in Iowa?

I flew to California and spent a week there to assist my aunt who underwent cataract surgery. She did not really needed much assistance, except that she was unable to drive for a few days. Driving her around was not a big deal, except that her car is a stick shift sports sedan and I have not driven a stick shift for more than 20 years. But I managed.

It did not stop me either when she suggested that we go and eat at the Manila Sunset Grille even though it was quite a drive through heavy traffic and busy freeways. Stick shift and all, I was determined to go.

Below is what I ordered:

I know, lumpiang sariwa, bibingka and halo-halo may not necessarily go together, but that’s what I have not tasted for a while.

And while I was savoring these food, Jose Mari Chan’s songs were playing over head which adds more to the nostalgic feel. One particular song that stroke a chord was “Christmas in Our Hearts.”

Perhaps it was more than the traditional home food and the Manila sunset that I was really missing. And it’s definitely not the kanal and estero.

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Old Stomping Ground

In my last post, I already alluded that I went back to New York last weekend. Besides attending a program in honor of a retiring beloved Pastor, this trip also gave me the opportunity to visit my old stomping ground.

When we were in New York about two decades ago, we lived in “the Hamptons.” But before you think of that exclusive and ritzy place in Long Island for the rich and famous, I don’t mean that.

This is the Hampton I meant – Hampton Street in Queens, New York.

We lived in one of these apartment complexes.

My wife and I also visited “Ihawan,” one of the several Filipino restaurants in the neighborhood where we used to frequent before. We had a hearty (as in heart-attack risk?) breakfast here.

After breakfast, we walked to the hospital where I did part of my medical training. I even went inside and check out the place. There was much changes here since the time I left.

Then we hopped on the number 7 train of the New York City Metro. This line of train is on the top of the street instead of being underground, at least in this part of town.

We rode the train and boarded off here, the Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

People here are always rushing, and time seems to be incessantly fleeting in this place. Except for us now, as we had time to kill and just relax.

We then walked through New York City midtown and end up in Bryant Park. We were also in this place last December where our kids went ice skating. This place looks very different in the summer as instead of an ice skating rink, there is lawn grass.

We just sat down here and did some people watching. There were even some ballet dancers practicing at the park.

Then we headed down to Time Square area as we wanted to see a “new” establishment there. We heard it opened in October of last year. Was it an earth-shaking institution or such an epic landmark that it forever altered the face of Time Square? I don’t know, you tell me.

Perhaps we were just hankering for that certain taste of home. We were greeted inside by this happy guy.

That sums up our short visit to the city. Until next time…….

From New York City,

Pinoytransplant

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(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Transition: A Tribute To A Beloved Pastor

(I went to New York this past weekend to pay homage to a beloved Pastor who is retiring. I was one of the many who was asked to give a short tribute in the program for him. Here’s what I said:)

I met Pastor W at the time of my life that can be described in one word: transition.

In 1997, my wife and I moved to New York City to continue my medical training. Being new to this foreign place, the Filipino church became our instant support group and family. That was the beginning of my close relationship with Pastor W and his family.

The Filipino congregation, still a fellowship or company at that time, was undergoing a transition too. The leader of the core group was leaving for another state, and our arrival was not by chance but considered a Divine appointment.

During our time in New York City, the Filipino congregation moved from a small rented storage-like room to a spacious rented church. It was also during this time that the group was formally organized as a church. I am humbled to be a part of that transition and was even chosen to serve as the first First Elder of the newly formed Filipino church.

In my first hand account, I observed Pastor W as a relentless worker. Always respectful and humble, yet getting the job done. He will do whatever task is needed to be done: he’ll preach sermons, he’ll do visitations, he’ll sing with the church choir, he’ll help clean-up and be the church janitor, as well as some other odd duties outside the job-description of a church pastor. He even helped my family and me moved to a new apartment, all in the real essence of the word “bayanihan.”

After our three years in New York, I finished my training, and that was when we had to undergo a painful transition of visa status change. The transition process took several months, and I was unable to work, and yet I had a family to feed. During that time, the Filipino church adopted and partly supported us. Every church service, Ate Nelly, and some other members would hand me $20 or other amount, and would tell me, “This is for your daughter’s food and diapers.” Pastor W never failed to encourage me during that difficult time and continued to pray for my family and me.

We eventually moved out of New York City and went to California to stay with our relatives, to flee the cruel winter season of our lives. But like any winter it ended, and we were able to transition to our current status now.

I have been out of New York City for 20 years now, and even after several more transitions that I went through, there’s one thing that has not changed: Pastor W remains my Pastor and my friend. Every year on my birthday, or my wife’s birthday, we receive a greeting and a prayer from him. Every year on our wedding anniversary, he’ll do the same. And I’m sure we are not the only ones who get greetings and prayer from him on every special occasion. Because that’s who he is – a minister, a shepherd, and a faithful friend.

As he now undergoes a transition in his life, as he officially retires from the ministry, I want to sincerely thank him for his service. He definitely made an impact on so many lives, and I am among them that he forever touched.

Thank you Pastor W.

Brooklyn bridge (photo taken with an iPhone)