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)

Tampisaw

Noong isang umaga, ako’y nagising sa dagundong ng kulog at kalaskas ng bumubuhos na ulan. Balak ko sanang tumakbo noong umagang iyon pero dahil sa malakas na ulan, ako’y nagbatu-batugan at nagbabad na lang sa higaan. Utak ko nama’y nagtampisaw sa mga alaala ng nakaraang mga tag-ulan – mga alaala na matagal nang nakasampay ngunit parang basa at sariwa pa rin sa isipan.

Nagliwaliw ang aking isip noong ako’y maliit na bata pa. Gaya ng maraming bata batuta, ako’y mahilig maglaro sa ulan lalo na kapag maalinsangan. Kahit pa sabihing baka raw sipunin, o magkapulmonya, o kaya’y mapasma, ay hindi namin alintana, dahil sa musmos naming isip, masarap maligo sa ulan. Kung hindi pipigilan ay lagi kaming susugod sa ulan.

Nagbabakasyon kami palabas ng Maynila tuwing buwan ng Mayo noon. Mga dalawang linggo rin kaming lumalagi sa Ilokos Norte, ang probinsiyang pinagmulan ng aking nanay.

Isang araw habang kami ay nagbabakasyon, ay umulan nang todo-todo. Kami, kasama ko ang aking mga pinsan, ay pinayagang maligo sa ulan. Masaya kaming naghabulan sa kalsadang graba, habang umaagos ang malalaking kanal na ang tubig ay malinaw, hindi gaya ng tubig kanal ng Maynila. Dahil mala-batis ang linis ng tubig sa kanal, sinasalok pa namin ito ng tabo, tapos itataob namin ang tabo na may lamang tubig sa aming ulo, habang kami’y sumasayaw at tumatalon-talon sa ulan. Akala ninyo palaka lang ang masaya kapag umuulan?

Pinupulot din namin ang mga nalalaglag na kamachile dahil sa lakas ng hangin. Hindi na namin kailangan pa itong sungkitin. Sana nga ang mga mangga sa puno ng aking lola ay magkandahulog din, pero kailangan yata ng ipo-ipo bago ito malaglag.

Sa bahay naman namin sa Maynila, konting ulan lang ay baha na kaagad ang mga kalye, kaya sanay akong lumusong sa baha. Hindi namin iniisip ang Leptospirosis, dahil hindi ko pa naman alam kung ano iyon at hindi ko pa rin alam ang spelling nito. Noong nasa medical school na ako kesa ko pa lang natutunan ito, at sa katunayan, may naging pasyente kaming namatay dahil sa Leptospirosis. Sangayon sa history niya, siya ay bumagtas sa baha.

Nang ako’y nasa kolehiyo na, masaya pa rin ako kapag malakas na ang ulan. Hindi sa ako’y sadista at gusto ko ng bagyo, pero dahil kalimitan ay nakakansela ang pasok sa UST kapag baha na, lalo na sa Espanya. Umaabot hanggang hita o hanggang bewang pa ang baha doon.

photo credit: Michael Angelo Reyes

Minsan nang ako’y nasa medical school na, bumuhos ang malakas na ulan maghapon at hindi humumpay kaya bumaha ang buong ka-Maynilaan. Wala kaming masakyan pauwi, dahil mga pailan-ilang bus na lamang ang malakas ang loob na bumaybay sa malalim na baha. Walang rin namang pumapasadang bangka. Kaya lumusong na lang ako sa baha at naglakad mula sa UST hanggang sa amin sa may Balik-Balik. Sa awa ng Diyos nakarating naman ako nang ligtas sa aming bahay, at hindi napatianod o nalunod sa baha, at hindi rin nahulog sa mga nakabukas na imburnal. Wala naman din akong nahuling dalag.

Nang matapos ako sa Medisina, ako’y pansamantalang namasukan (moonlighting) sa isang maliit na ospital sa Plaridel Bulakan, upang makaipon nang konti habang ako’y nag re-review para sa medical licensing exam ng Amerika. Kung maipapasa ko iyon, magiging pasaporte ko siya upang makalabas ng bansa. Sa Plaridel na ako lumalagi ng mga ilang araw, at linguhan na lang akong lumuwas ng Maynila. Trabaho ako sa gabi, at konting tulog at puspusang review sa araw.

Isang okasyon, dinalaw ako ng aking nobya na galing Maynila sa aking trabaho doon sa Bulakan. Matindi ang ulan noong araw na iyon. Kahit na may dala pa siyang payong, ay basang basa siya nang dumating sa aming ospital sa Plaridel. Para siyang basang sisiw. Ako naman ay parang palakang kumakanta.

Habang siya ay nagpapatuyo, at habang kami ay nakaupo at nakadungaw sa bumubuhos na ulan, ay masaya naman kaming magkaulayaw kahit na maiksing sandali lamang ang sa ami’y inilaan. At para bagang awit ni Basil Valdez (may version din si Regine Velasquez), alam namin na kapag tumila na ang ulan ay lilisan na siya upang bumalik sa Maynila, at ako’y maiiwan na.

Pagmasdan ang ulan unti-unting tumitila,
Ikaw ri’y magpapaalam na,
Maaari bang minsan pa,
Mahagkan ka’t maiduyan pa,
Sa tubig at ulan lamang ang saksi,
Minsan pa ulan bumuhos ka
Huwag nang tumigil pa,
Hatid mo ma’y bagyo
Dalangin ito ng puso kong sumasamo,
Pag-ibig ko’y umaapaw,
Damdamin ko’y humihiyaw sa tuwa,
Tuwing umuulan at kapiling ka.

Malakas pa rin ang buhos ng ulan at tumatabing pa rin ang maiitim na ulap sa bagong silang na umaga. Pero kailangan ko nang bumangon at kailangan nang pumasok sa trabaho. Hanggang sa muli na lang ulit ang aking pagtatampisaw sa mga alaala ng kahapon.

Aking pinagmasdan ang aking katabi. Mahimbing pa rin ang kanyang pagkakatulog. Pero alam kong kahit tumila pa ang ulan, kami ay magkapiling na at hindi na namin kailangang magpaalam pa.

Magdadalampu’t limang taon na palang bumubuhos ang ulan.

(photo taken with an iPhone)

Follow the Sunflower

A couple of weeks ago, when we were coming home from a week-long international camporee, we happen to drove by a sunflower farm here in Iowa. We were unaware that there’s a sunflower field here. Since we were all tired from the camping, we did not go down to check it out, but promised ourselves that we’ll come back and visit it some other time.

Last Friday, after we helped our daughter get settled back to her dorm, we trekked down to the sunflower farm, which was less than an hour drive from our daughter’s university.

When we arrived at the field, we were a little disappointed, as the condition of the sunflowers has passed its peak. Summer after all, is almost ending and plus the heavy rains earlier in the week did a number on the sunflowers. In fact some of the sunflowers had already fallen to the ground.

Since the state of the farm was not that picture perfect anymore, the $3 entrance fee had been waived, and instead a box for voluntary donation at the gate was placed. It was also free to take some flowers home.

I have to say though that overall, peak or past their peak, the sunflowers were still a beauty to behold.

I noticed something peculiar as well. I always heard that sunflowers always face and follow the sun from sunrise to sunset. This phenomenon is called heliotropism. However in this field the flowerheads were actually turned away from the sun as they were facing east, though the sun was already starting to descend in the west. Why?

I asked one of the farm attendant and she told us that young sunflowers follow the sun across the sky, but when the plant mature, the stalks become stiff already so they lost their ability to turn. So the mature sunflowers face east permanently the rest of their days.

Isn’t that like people? When we were young, we were impressionable and we follow rules without questions. But when we get old, we become “stiff neck” and become pasaway (hardheaded).

Speaking of pasaway, here’s one:

watering the sunflowers

Don’t worry, I did not really “water” the sunflowers. It was all for photo effects.

For some reason while I was on this field, I had this certain Beatles song playing in my head. Maybe because I know that the sunflowers follow the sun:

One day, you’ll find
That I have gone
But tomorrow may rain, so
I’ll follow the sun
Yeah tomorrow may rain, so
I’ll follow the sun.

From the sunflower field of Iowa,

Pinoytransplant

(*photos taken with an iPhone)

Biyaheng Langit

(Eksaktong limang taon ngayong araw na ito ang nakalipas nang aking ilathala ang artikulong Paglalakbay sa Alapaap. Isa lamang pong pagbabalik-tanaw……..)

Paglalakbay sa Alapaap

Alapaap.

Iyan ang aking nakita, sa pagdungaw ko sa bintana. Muli akong nasa himpapawid. Lumilipad. Naglalakbay. Pabalik sa aking lupang sinilangan.

Isip ko ay lumilipad at naglalakbay din. Ngunit hindi tulad ng eroplanong aking sinasakyan na mapayapang tumatahak sa mga alapaap, ang biyahe ng aking isip ay maligalig at matagtag.

Mula nang ako’y lumisan ng ating bansa, dalampung taon na ang nakalilipas, ay maraming beses na rin naman akong nakapagbalik-bayan. At lagi sa aking pagbabalik ay may bitbit itong galak at pananabik. Galak na muli akong tatapak sa lupang tinubuan. At pananabik na makita muli ang iniwang pamilya’t mga kaibigan.

Kahit nang ako’y umuwi noong nakaraang Nobyembre bilang isang medical volunteer para tumulong sa mga nasalanta ni Yolanda, ang naramdaman ko’y hamon na may kahalo pa ring pananabik. Pananabik na makapagbigay ng lunas at ginhawa sa mga kababayang nasakuna ng bagyo.

Ngunit kaka-iba ang pagkakataong ito ng aking pagbabalik. Walang galak. Walang panananabik. Kundi pagkabahala sa kakaibang bagyo na aming sasagupain.

May katiyakan naman ang aking patutunguhan. May katiyakan rin ang oras ng aking pagdating at paglapag sa Maynila. Ngunit hindi ko tiyak kung ano ang aking daratnan. Hindi ko rin tiyak kung gaanong kaikling panahon pa ang sa amin ay inilaan.

Pero ganyan daw talaga ang buhay. Walang katiyakan.

Hindi ko sasabihing hindi ko batid na darating din ang pagkakataong kagaya nito. Ngunit katulad ninyo, ako’y nagnanais at umaasa na sana ay malayo pa ang takipsilim. Sana ay magtagal pa ang tag-araw. Sana ay hindi pa matapos ang awit. Sana ay mahaba pa ang sayaw. Sana……..

Subalit tanggapin man natin o hindi, ang lahat ay may hangganan at may katapusan.

Maraming bagyo na rin naman ang aming pinagdaanan. At kahit gaano kalupit ang hagupit ng unos, ito ay nakakaya ring bunuin. At kahit dumadapa sa dumadaang delubyo ay muli rin namang nakakabangon.

Hindi lang bagyong kagaya ni Ondoy o Yolanda ang aking tinutukoy.

Ngunit kahit gaano pa kaitim ang mga ulap na kumumubli sa liwanag, at kahit gaano kalakas ang sigwa na yumayanig sa pagod na nating katauhan, at kahit gaano pa kahaba ang gabi, ay ating tatandaan na lagi pa ring may bukang-liwayway sa kabila ng mga alapaap.

Atin na lang ding isipin na sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay palaging nakangiti ang araw. Sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay laging mapayapa. Sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap ay walang nang bagyo. Walang nang pagkakasakit. Walang nang paghihinagpis. Walang na ring pagtangis.

Malapit nang lumapag ang aking eroplanong linululanan. Malapit na rin akong humalik muli sa inang-lupa na aking sinilangan. Muli rin akong hahalik sa mukha ng aking ina na sa akin ay nagsilang.

Sana ay magkita pa kami. Sana ay abutan ko pa siya………..bago siya maglakbay sa ibabaw ng mga alapaap.

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Post Note: Nagpang-abot pa kami ng aking ina. Ngunit iyon na ang aming huling pagkikita, sapagka’t dalawang buwan matapos nito, siya ay nagbiyaheng langit at pumailanglang na.

Ebolusyon ng Wika: Tadbalik Edition

Limang taon na pala nang aking kathain ang artikulong “Ebolusyon ng Wika” sa blog site na ito. Marami na rin naman ang sumilip dito. Ngayon, dahil may panibagong interes sa ating katutubong wika kaya naingganyo akong isulat ang sunod na akdang ito.

Ang popularidad ng bagong Meyor o Yorme ng lungsod ng Maynila na may makulay na pananalita ang dahilan kung bakit may ibayong taginting sa ating wikang Pilipino.

Siguro naman ay nakakasakay na kayo sa mga katagang binibitiwan ni Yorme Isko Moreno. Bukang bibig niya ang mga terminong etneb (bente), posam (sampu), takwarents (kwarenta), kodli (likod), gedli (gilid), wakali (kaliwa) at nanka (kanan). Ito’y mga salitang baliktad o kaya’y tadbalik.

Dahil sa lumaki ako sa panahong nauso ang mga salitang kalyeng ito, kaya’t parang masarap muling mapakinggan ang mga katagang ito. Para bagang pagbabalik tanaw na rin sa lumipas na kahapon.

Aaminin ko, hindi po ako mahilig magsalita ng pabaliktad. Siguro dahil sa taga-Bulakan ang aking lahi, mga dugong Balagtas at makakata, kaya’t medyo “purist” o dalisay kaming mag-Tagalog. Hindi naman ibig sabihin ay nag-babalagtasan kaming magsalita sa aming tahanan.

Ngunit sa aba ko, sawing kapalaran,
Ano pang halaga ng gayong suyuan,
Kung ang sing-ibig ko’y sa katahimikan,
Ay humilig na sa ibang kandungan.
(hugot mula sa Florante at Laura ni Francisco Balagtas)

Naiintindihan ko naman po ang mga salitang pabaliktad. Lalo na kapag nasa kalye ako, kagaya nang kapag kami ay nagbabasketball sa kalsada, mariringan ko ang mga kalaro ko na nagbibigay ng direksiyon pagnaglalaro: “Sa wakali mo, sa wakali mo!”

Pero dehins ako magiging tapat kung sasabihin kong hindi ako kailan man nangusap ng salitang kalye. Dahil minsan isang panahon ay naisama rin naman sa aking bokabularyo ang mga salitang ermat, erpat, tsekot, lespu, goli at olats.

Use olats and goli in a sentence: Olats ako sa kagwapuhan ni Richard Gomez, pero tatlong goli lang ang lamang niya.

Sinasambit din naming madalas noon ang salitang tomgu (gutom) o “Tom Jones.” Example: “Pards may makakain ba tayo diyan, kasi Tom Jones na Tom Jones na ako.” Hindi ko po ikakaila, miyembro po ako noon ng isang frat – farating gutom.

Bakit ba mahilig magsalita ng pabaliktad ang mga Pilipino? Meron pa ngang libro na inilathala si Bob Ong na ang pamagat ay “Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino.” Baliktad ba talaga ang takbo ng utak nating Pilipino?

“Kung hindi mo alam kung sino ka, paano mo maipagmamalaki ang sarili mo?” (quote from Bob Ong , Bakit Baliktad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino.)

Ang pagbabaliktad ng salita sa aking pagkakatanto, ay nauso noong 1970’s, nang sumikat ang Hippie culture. Dito sumabog ang mga mapagrebeldeng ideya. Tulad nang pagpapahaba ng buhok ng mga lalaki. Pati babae, nagpapahaba rin ng buhok – sa kili-kili. Nagrerebelde sila kaya ayaw din nilang maligo. Hindi po ako nakisali doon. Siguro dahil sa pagrerebelde, kaya pati salita ay iniiba nila. O kaya nama’y gusto lang nilang gawing mas makulay ang ating wika.

Noong panahon ding iyon nauso pati mga kantang may salitang pabaliktad. Pumatok noon ang kanta ni Mike Hanopol na “Laki sa Layaw, Jeproks.” Ang Jeproks po ay baliktad ng salitang project. May kanta rin si Sampaguita na pinasikat noon, ito ay ang “Nosi Balasi” na ang ibig sabihin ay ‘sino ba sila.’

Mga ilang dekada ang lumipas, pero may mga baliktad pa rin mga pananalita. Noong 1990’s ang Eraserheads naman ay naglabas ng kantang Bogchi Hokbu – na baliktad ng Chibug Buhok. Ito po ang sample ng kanta, tignan ko kung masasakyan ninyo:

Wanga tenants ng reksli,
Toing takans na toyi,
Napha oyats ng nengmi,
Nananakirima,
Bangbangbangalalala,
Tastastasbobona,
Bogchi Hokbu.

Pero hindi po henerasyon ng mga Hippie ang pasimuno ng pagbabaliktad ng salita. Kasi, panahon pa ng Kastila ay binabaliktad na ng mga Pilipino ang salita o pangalan. Hindi kayo maniwala? Siguro naman ay kilala ninyo ang isa sa ating bayani na si Marcelo Del Pilar. Ang kanyang ginamit na pen name ay Plaridel, na galing sa Del Pilar. Petmalu si Del Pilar ano po?

Maliban sa mga salitang baliktad, meron ding mga salita sa bokabularyo ni Mayor Isko Moreno na pamilyar sa akin dahil naging bahagi rin ito ng aking wika noon at kahit hanggang ngayon. Isa rito ay ang salitang ‘tolongges.’ Nasaan na kaya ngayon ang mga tolongges kong kabarkada noon? Kung inyong aalamin, noong 1981, ay may isang pelikula si George Javier na ang pamagat ay “A Man Called Tolongges.”

Pero meron din namang mga kataga is Yorme na ngayon ko lang narinig. Ngayon ko lang nakilala is ‘Eddie’ at si ‘Patty.’ Pero ang mga ‘Spiderman,’ dati ko na silang kilala. Sa katunayan tatlong tiyuhin ko noon ay mga lineman ng Meralco, kaya galit sila sa mga Spiderman.

Hanggang dito na lang po muli. Lodi ko si Yorme, at bilib pa rin ako sa ating wika, talagang astig pa rin ito. Sana more werpa sa atin na nagsasalita ng wikang Pilipino. Mabuhay! O haymabu?

(*inilathala para sa Buwan ng Wika)

Salin-wikang Tula: A Challenge

Noong makaraang araw, isang Pilipina blogger, si Jolens (read post here), ang nag-post ng mga banyagang tula na kanyang isinalin sa ating sariling wika. Ika niya, ang pagsasalin-wika ay magandang pagsasanay upang mahasa ang ating husay sa lenguahe.

Siya rin ay nag-alok ng hamon (hindi po ham, challenge ang ibig kong sabihin) sa mga ibang blogger, kasama na po ako dito, na magsalin din daw ng tula sa ating wika. Aking malugod na tinanggap ang hamon na ito.

Akin pong pinili ang isang classic at tanyag na tula sa Ingles. Ito ay isinulat ni William Ernest Henley.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Heto naman po ang aking pagkakasalin sa ating wikang tinubuan, at kahit hindi man salita kada salita, ay pinilit kong mapanatili ang saloobin ng buong tula:

Invictus

Mula sa gabing sumusuklob sa akin,
Pusikit na gaya ng balong napakalalim,
Anumang mga diyos, sila’y aking pinasasalamatan,
Sa kaluluwa kong hindi magagapi kailan man.


Sa pagkakalugmok sa mahigpit na kalagayan,
Hindi ako humikbi o tumangis man,
Sa kabila ng hataw at hagupit ng kapalaran,
Ako’y taas noo pa rin kahit na sugatan.


Sa ibayo ng lupain nitong poot at luha,
Mga anino ng lagim na laging nagbabadya,
At anumang panganib ng mga taon na lumipas,
Bahid ng takot sa aki’y hindi namalas.


Gaano mang kakitid ang aking daraanan,
Hitik man ng parusa ang sa aki’y iniatang,
Ako pa rin ang panginoon ng aking kapalaran,
Sa aking buhay, ako ang Kapitan.

**********

(*Invictus means unconquered in Latin; above photo is of the Colosseum, taken during our visit to Rome)

Maynila, Ikaw Ba Yan?

Sa ating buhay, may mga bagay na mahirap makita. Kahit hanapin mo pa, hindi sila basta basta lalantad.

Isa na dito ang mga multo at maligno. Kahit sabihin pa nating maraming Pilipino ang naniniwala sa mga ito, hindi lahat ay nakakakita sa kanila. Sabi ng iba, kailangan mo ng pangatlong mata (third eye) para sila makita. Para sa akin, dahil hindi ako naniniwala, kaya ayoko na lang silang makita.

Isa pa sa mga hindi nagpapakita ay ang mga taong may utang sa atin. Hindi ko nga alam kung saang lupalop sila nagtatago, pero asahan mo, mahirap silang matagpuan. Buti pa minsan ‘yung multo, nagpaparamdam. Pero ang mga taong may utang sa iyo? Walang paramdam.

Siguro isama na rin natin sa mahirap makita ang mga ninong at ninang kapag panahon ng Pasko. Umeeskapo rin sila sa mga naghahanap sa kanila. Kawawang mga inaanak, nagiging maligno ang kanilang mga ninong at ninang.

Isa pa sa mahirap makita, lalo na sa mga taga Maynila, ay ang mga kalsada na sa matagal nang panahon ay nawawala. Sila ay nakukubli sa ating tanaw. Tulad ng mga kalsada sa Divisoria, Quiapo, at Sta. Cruz. Sa dami ng mga naglalako at mga paninda na nakatirik sa gitna mismo ng kalye, ay natabunan na ang kalsadang dapat sana ay daanan ng mga mamamayan.

Subalit, dahil may bagong pamunuan na ang lungsod ng Maynila, ang hindi ko akalaing makikita ay lumantad na.

Alam mo bang may maluwag palang kalsada sa Divisoria?

Divisoria district

Hindi ko maubos maisip na may kalye pala sa Carriedo?

Carriedo Street in Quiapo

At may lansangan palang lagus-lagusan sa Blumentritt?

Blumentritt Road in Sta. Cruz

Aaminin ko, hindi ko nakilala kaagad ang mga larawan ng mga lugar na ito, dahil malinis na sila sa mga illegal vendors na naglipana at nakabalagbag sa gitna ng kalsada, at wala na rin ang mga gabundok na tambak ng basura.

Saludo po ako sa bagong alkalde ng Maynila. At kahit matagal na akong wala sa siyudad na ito, dahil sa mga magagandang pagbabagong nagaganap sa lungsod na aking pinagmulan, ay lalo kong ipagyayabang na ako ay lumaki sa lungsod ng Maynila.

Sana ay maisiwalat at mailantad na rin ang mga aswang na nagtatago sa anino ng gobyerno, na sumisipsip sa kabang yaman ng bayan.

Masigasig ko pong aantabayanan at tututukan ang mga bali-balita mula sa aking bayan.

Mabuhay ang Maynila!

(*images from Philippine news outlet)

Taste of Italy

Italian cuisine is one of the best among the world’s cuisine. It is one of the most popular and most copied type of food as well. And where can you find the best authentic Italian food? In Italy of course!

When we visited Italy last month, we covered most of the country, from the northern region, with cities like Milan and Venice, to the central region which is Tuscany, including the cities of Pisa and Florence, and to the southern region, in Rome and even down to the Amalfi coast.

Amalfi coast (photo taken with an iPhone)

By the way, we avail the services of JDC Private Tours when we were in Italy, that’s why we were able to visit so many places and packed so many activities in such a short period of time. I was more than happy and have only compliments of their business.

Part of our trip of course was sampling authentic Italian food. Their cuisine is known for its regional diversity, especially between the north and south of the Italian peninsula.

Overall, the Italian foods that we ate, from the ‘street’ and on-the-go food to the long sit-down fine dining with 5-course dinner, (one evening we’re treated out by a friend from Rome and we ate dinner for almost 2 hours!), and from the appetizer like bruschetta, to the dessert like tiramisu, were all very good. It was really a delightful gastronomical experience.

Here in the United States, when we talked about Italian food, we think mostly of pizza and pasta. However, many of the “Italian” food we have here are somewhat modified to cater to the American taste.

For instance, when we went to one local restaurant in Rome, there was a note in their menu that says, “we don’t serve spaghetti with meatballs, fettucini alfredo, and lasagna.” That was interesting. Perhaps that’s all the American tourists order, and to the locals those were not even really authentic Italian dishes.

To say that Italy have many kinds of pasta, is an understatement. After all it is the mecca of pasta. But one thing peculiar is all their pasta are served “al dente.” Meaning it is really firm, teetering to raw, that you have to bite and chew it before you can swallow.

Leaning Tower of Pizza…….I mean Pisa

Another thing is that the Italian pizza is not served pre-sliced. They give it to you as a whole piece, fresh from the wood-burning oven, and they give a fork and a knife for you to slice it yourself. I heard that when they first introduced pizza in New York City long long time ago, somebody had the bright idea of serving it by the slice and made more money from it. Since then pizza in the US is served pre-sliced.

In one restaurant we went to in northern Italy, I was impressed on how many types of sauce or variation they have for pizza. The menu had 3 pages just for pizza! And Hawaiian pizza? That’s not even in the menu, because as you can surmise, that’s an American version of an Italian dish.

As a Filipino who grew up in Manila, I also have a different concept of an Italian dish. My favorite is the Greenwich pizza, which I understand is a Filipino brand of pizzeria. Furthermore, I used to think that spaghetti always have a sweet-tasting sauce, just like how my mother prepares it, which is close to the taste of spaghetti in Jollibee, the largest Filipino chain of fast-food restaurants.

When I migrated to America more than 20 years ago, the first time we dined in an “authentic” Italian Restaurant in New Jersey named Trattoria, I was a little surprised that the spaghetti tasted “sour.” In fact me and my wife looked at each other and said to ourselves, maybe the sauce was spoiled as it tasted different. That was an ignoramus moment for us.

Back to our tour of Italy, we landed in Milan airport and stayed in Milan for two nights. On our first day, we were so tired and jet-lagged that my son and daughter went to sleep without having dinner. But my wife and I, despite being tired, felt the hunger pangs and so we went out to eat.

view from our hotel room in Milan

Since we were in the heart of the city of Milan, there were several decent restaurants around our hotel. In fact in our hotel itself was a good ‘ristorante,’ but my wife and I wanted to explore the city. And lo and behold, just walking two blocks from where we were staying, we found what we were looking for.

We were excited as we enter the restaurant. Then we ordered our very first meal in Italy. I understand that you cannot go wrong if you order pasta in Italy, and that’s what I did. I ordered spaghetti. And when I tasted the spaghetti, it was all what I envisioned. It was good.

In case you are wondering what restaurant we went to for our first Italian dinner?

It was Jollibee!

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(*Jollibee opened in Milan last year, and was the first ever Jollibee branch and only one so far in Europe.)