Looking for Falling Stars

Last summer, we learned that there would be a great opportunity to see meteors in our area. That is if we would look at the right time and at the right direction. And provided that we would have a clear sky.

The event is the Perseid meteor shower, a stream of debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet. This is an annual event, and they said that in a clear night sky you can potentially see 100 falling stars in an hour. A hundred falling stars in an hour? That’s a proposition that was just too hard to resist.

Even though I spent half of my life in Manila (can’t see much stars in a big city), I have seen meteors several times in the past. The first time was when I was in grade school during our school’s camping in Batangas. The last time was not too long ago when I was driving home one night here in Iowa and it streaked down the sky. Perhaps I am lucky to see falling stars a few times, or perhaps I’m just looking at the night sky an awful lot of times.

My wife who have not seen a falling star ever, except maybe Kris Aquino falling off the stage on live TV some decades ago, so she was really determined to see this event.

So one night last August, we went outside to watch for falling stars.

We live in a country side, which was a decision we made years ago, where our dark night sky still shows the stars shining brightly and not blurred by the city lights. However in the past 13 years we have lived out here, the city has been creeping closer and closer to us. The cornfields and open prairies that we used to pass by is steadily being gobbled up by construction of housing developments and commercial establishments. I am not sure if I would like to call that “progress.”

It was close to 11 o’clock at night when we went out, a time that ordinarily I would already be snoring. We stood in our deck and looked out in our backyard sky towards northeast, the direction we read it would be. After close to half an hour outside, we still have not seen any falling stars. Not even a single one! And they promised 100 stars an hour?

We were also getting cold, for even though it was summer, it was seasonably cooler than usual that night. Our necks were getting strained as well from looking up. We should have placed a mat in our lawn and lay there under the stars with our blankets. At least we would be comfortable while we eagerly wait and while we listen to the ‘sweet nothing’ whispers in our ears. I’m referring to the pesky mosquitoes buzzing around our heads.

After a long while, as I was looking at the sky in the direction we thought the meteors would appear, I believed I saw a light streaked in my peripheral field of vision. So I told my wife that perhaps we were looking at the wrong direction. So we trained our gaze to a different direction in the sky.

Sure enough, in less than a minute, we saw a bright star flashed across the sky and disappeared in the dark. Not much later, another one did. And another one.

Isn’t it like many times in life, what we’re searching for has been there all along, we just have not realized it, or we just have not looked the right way. Like your lost keys. Or the love that you’re waiting for. Or the happiness that you’re chasing.

Satisfied, my wife suggested that we can go back inside the house, knowing also that the right direction where we can look was in the full view of our bedroom window. So we pulled out a sleeping mat and placed it near the window, and there we laid for the night instead of our bed, and watch for more shooting stars.

They said that you should make a wish when you see a shooting star. Of course I did. That wish was already been granted: lying down here beside me.


Happy Anniversary my dear. It has been 23 years of happy moments and fulfilled wishes.

(*photo taken in Mohonk Mountain House, New York)


Hands Off the Ferrari

Being an immigrant in the United States, many times I feel that we are always going to be second-class citizens here. There will always be discrimination, whether it be deliberate or not.

It does not matter how successful we get in our field of endeavor. It does not matter how high the level of our education is. It does not matter how fluent we speak the English language, albeit with a different accent. It does not matter how we dress-up. It does not even matter if we are already naturalized citizens of the US or not. We will still be viewed as “lowly” immigrants. And its hard to break away from the stereotypes of being one.

This brings me to the story of my friend and former classmate, as narrated by his daughter, during his and his wife’s birthday celebration. Their daughter is in college now.

Several years ago, my classmate, while he was in Las Vegas to attend a physicians’ conference, went to a car show. Besides Medicine, his knowledge in other fields of science is remarkable. You can ask him anything under the sun and he has an idea about it. That’s why we nicknamed him Einstein back in our college days. He is also well-versed in car talk and is a true auto enthusiast.

While he was in the auto show, he was looking at all the beautiful and exotic cars on display and was happily engaged in discussion with the car representatives. With my friend was her daughter who was 7 or 8 years old at that time. Perhaps a car show was the only “safe” show he can bring his little girl to, compared to the other shows Las Vegas is famous for.

The daughter got bored and tired, according to her account, and so it happened that she leaned on one of the expensive cars at the show, that his father has a certain interest in. The car was a gorgeous red Ferrari. The car representative then told my friend to please tell his daughter to get her hands off the car.

It may be that it was a gentle reminder or a small request by the car representative. But to my friend, it sounds like a snub, a slight, and a downright slap on the face.

Do you think I am not a real customer and has no interest in buying this car? Do you think I am not deserving to see or touch this car? Do you think, just because I’m an immigrant, I have no capability of buying this car? Well, my friend did not retort that way, but according to the daughter, that’s what he should have said. Instead, he just took it in stride.

It’s not that we are ‘social climbers,’ or that we are forgetting where we came from. It’s not that we are denying our humble beginnings, for just like me, my friend also used to ride the bus and jeepneys when we were in college, back in the Philippines. What we only asked for, is give us the respect we deserve.

As my friend’s daughter recounted the story, she said that that day, his father made this resolution: that this child, this very child that has a snotty nose and slimy hands, will one day own, and ride on this very car that she was not even allowed to touch.

Several weeks later, a beautiful red car was delivered, and rolled in into the garage of my friend’s house. When the daughter saw the car, she asked his father: “Dad, is this the car?” The car that she was forbidden to lean on.

My friend then proudly said, “Yes, my beloved daughter, this is the car.”


Old Friend

Hello friend.

First of all, I know it is your birthday tomorrow. Don’t be impressed that I remember that after all these years. It is just because you shared the same birthdate with my father, that’s why I cannot forget.

I know we have not seen each other in person for several years. But it is not a reason that we have not stayed in touch as friends. After all, we’ve known each other since our “uhugin” days of childhood. We even had that matching yellow shirt that we would often wear at the same time when we were kids, as if we were twins.

We played together. We ate together. We even got lost once together in a farm. We were so small then and cannot see beyond the tall plantation. But you told me that we should kneel down and pray right there in the rice field. After that, we eventually found our way back.

Remember how we played those tau-tauhan or toy soldiers? We would stand them up in the dirt while we were on our hands and knees on the ground, and we’ll hit them with marbles as if it was a war. I think I could hit more than you. And I’ll rub it in, mas asintado ako sa iyo.

Our lives were intertwined, as our families were good friends. We would go to parks and other places together. Remember how we would fit our two families in our “Ford Cortina” – all 4 adults and 6 young kids in one car? Who cares about seatbelts? Those were the good ole days.

Then your family decided to migrate to Papua New Guinea. I was sad that you were leaving us, but happy for you and your family that you would be going to a new country and pursuing a “better” life.

Yet you still came back a couple of times to the Philippines for a visit. You told me about your experience riding that big airplane and crossing the ocean. I was so envious! You told me how excited you were in going down the stairs of the plane that you slipped and almost fell down the tarmac.

Then after a few more years I heard that your family would be migrating to the US from Papua New Guinea. Again I was happy for you and your family for another new adventure. Though I honestly was saddened, as the chances that you would come back to live in the Philippines and we’ll be together again was nil.

But tadhana smiled again and our path crossed once more. Several years later I was given the chance to go to the US too. I remember how you and your family welcomed me with open arms. I even stayed in your place for a short time. You showed me around California in your new Toyota Camry. Your family toured me to Disneyland. And you even took me shopping for some muffler and gloves, as you learned I was going to New York City in the dead of winter to have an interview.

Then I too was able to chase my American dream.

One day you called and told me that you are quitting your job. Your stable, high-paying job. And that you were going to South America with your family as missionaries. I was surprised. But more so, I was so impressed with your admirable faith. I know it’s not easy to give up the comforts and luxuries of life, and leave everything behind, in the name of God’s higher calling. I don’t know if I can do the same.

I understand it took you some time getting used to the change. You told me how remote your location was in South America. That you live almost like in a jungle, and your home was like living in a big tree house. And how it would take you a couple of days to travel to the nearest city. Yet you never forget to call me once in a while when you have the chance. I know you can only make that overseas call whenever you’re in the city.

I heard you say that even though how meager your resources were and how simple your life was, you told me, that you love working in God’s mission. What a remarkable dedication. I have nothing but respect for you.

Then more than a couple of years ago, I learned that you and your family came back to the US. Though I understand, you were still live-in volunteers in a small Christian academy. At least you don’t have to fight anymore, those pesky mosquitoes and poisonous snakes that sneak inside your home.

Once in a while we’ll talk about our families over the phone. And how we would open up about our “little” problems raising our family, just like any parents have. I called you few weeks ago, and I told you that I would be praying for you and your family. I also got your “thank you” card about two weeks ago.

Then I got a phone call from your sister yesterday. What an awful news! A heartbreaking news. That you had a tragic car accident. And in an instant, you were gone.

I don’t know what to think. My finite mind cannot rationalize it. I don’t know why God called you home too soon. But I just have to trust Him. As you always did.

I cannot imagine how your family and children are taking this. I am praying for them. I would continue to support them in whatever way I can, just like I promised you the last time we talked.

I guess I will never hear your voice again. We will never have that heart to heart talk again. At least not here on earth. But hoping someday, somewhere, beyond this earth…….

Goodbye my old friend.


(*in loving memory of Boying)

(**photo taken with an iPhone)



Jeproks and Other Strange Words

The Pilipino language has a rich vocabulary that has evolved like a cauldron of mix words borrowed from different languages including Spanish, Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, English, Indian, Arabic, Japanese and more.

I highlighted some interesting words in this post. You may be surprised where these words originated.

1. Jack en Poy

I’m sure you have played Jack en Poy when you were a kid. Also known as “rock, paper, scissors” or “bato bato pick.” Or maybe you still play it today. You even know the chant that goes with it:

Jack en poy, hale hale hoy! Sinong matalo, s’yang unggoy!

But where does the word Jack en Poy came from? Who is Jack? And who is Poy? Are they the ones who invented the game? Well, no.

The game originated in China likely around the first century, according to some articles. But when the game was brought to Japan around 1700’s, it became very popular and was a hit there.

In Japanese, jan means a sort of start, ken means first, and pon means stone. So when the Japanese play rock, paper, scissors, they call it Janken Pon.

Now it is not far from imagination how we Filipinos call it Jack en Poy. So if you’re in Japan, and challenge someone to play Jack en Poy, they probably know exactly what you’re asking them to do.

2. Karaoke

Filipinos like karaoke. All of us know what karaoke is, I suppose. We use the word as a noun and as a verb.

Example: Hindi ako nakatulog kagabi, kasi nag-karaoke magdamag ‘yung aming kapitbahay.

Have you wonder where the word karaoke came from? If you said from Japan, then you are absolutely right! But is Karaoke the name of the inventor of this system? Not quite.

In Japanese, kara means empty, and okesutra means orchestra. Shortening the word for orchestra, and combining it with the word empty (since no real orchestra), then we have kara + oke = karaoke.

3. Tansan

As a kid, I used to collect metal crown caps, also called in our language as tansan. Street children go caroling during the Christmas season using tansan tambourines. But have you wonder where the word tansan came from?

In 1892, US inventor William Painter patented the crown cap, forever revolutionizing the sealing of the carbonated soda pop bottles or more known to Filipinos as soft drinks.

While in Kobe, Japan, an Englishman John Clifford Wilkinson established a company  at the end of 19th century, producing carbonated mineral water. While he was hunting near the mountains, he stumbled upon the Tansan Springs, which became the source of his mineral water. He then named his sparkling water as “Tansan” brand, and registered it as a trademark in Washington in 1896. Of course he sealed his water bottles with metal crown caps.

When the Americans came to the newly colonized Philippine Islands in 1902, the branded Tansan sparkling water sealed with the metal crown cap was brought to our shores. I guess we were enamored with the crown cap and wondered what to call them. So we called them tansan!

4. Jobos

When I was in high school, there was a craze to dye shirts, jeans and even canvas shoes. So I did it too, using jobos or the powdered coloring dye. But do you know where the term jobos came from?

Back in the 1940s, a certain American named Joe Bush put up a laundry cleaner at Plaza Santa Cruz. Other than cleaning and dyeing, he also provided tailoring and bleaching services. But what made his business well known was that he manufactured and sell powdered dyes in small packet. Of course it carried the brand name Joe Bush.

Perhaps we Filipinos didn’t pronounce the name right or perhaps we heard it differently? Anyway jobos became our own local term for the coloring dye.

5. Alaska

You know this word right? It means to annoy or pester.

Example: Ang lakas mang-alaska ng kaklase ko, kaya sinapak ko.

Where did we borrow this word from?

If you think it is borrowed from an English word, then you’re right. But perhaps not from the English word that you’re thinking of. For it has nothing to do with the word Alaska, which is a state in the United States, nor is it related to the milk brand with the name Alaska.

When someone is making fun of another person we say that he is harassing him. You might tell that person “nanghaharass ka,” which is just one mispronunciation away from being “nang-aalaska.”

6. Sirit

Even though this word sounds from a Hindu or a Chinese word, it is not. It came from a common phrase from a more common language than you think. Sirit na?

If someone gives you a puzzle and you have no idea what the answer is, you plead with him to share the answer. You may say “share it.” Or in Tagalog, “Sirit!”

We must have bad ears or bad tongue, corrupting a perfect English phrase. But this is just another prime example of how we Tagalize (tinatagalog) a foreign word and make it our own.

7. Taympers

Here’s another term that we use when we were kids. We use it mostly when we were playing. Sometimes we use this to our advantage, like when we’re playing tag and we want to escape being it.

Example: Taympers! Iba na muna ang habulin mo kasi pagod na ako.

But do you know where this term came from? If you say it came from the good ‘ole English language then you’re right. But is it “tampers” or “time first.” Well, neither of those.

It is actually “time freeze.” Now it make more sense, right?

8. Buwisit

Maybe you’re having a bad day, and feeling irritated. One Pilipino word can aptly described what you feel. Buwisit!

Example: Talo na naman ang manok ko, buwisit na buhay ito!

Do have any idea what’s the origin of the word buwisit?

If you say it sounds Chinese like the pansit, then you’re close. It actually came from the Fukien phrase bo ui sit, meaning no food or clothes. If you have no food to eat nor clothes to wear, that means bad luck. Buwisit!

I’m not sure if our word for tax, which is buwis, is related to this. Maybe our opinion towards taxes is similar to that feeling of bad luck.

9. Jeproks

This word is a slang for someone cool or laid back. It may also mean someone with loose morals or like a hippie.

The word was introduced by a Filipino rocker, Mike Hanopol in the 1970’s. He had a hit song with this word on it. He even explained the meaning of it in the song:

Laki sa layaw, laki sa layaw, Jeproks!

The word is actually a reverse of the word “projects.” I’m not sure why Filipinos like to speak backwards like Noy-pi, dehins, ermat, amats, and other more.

Anyway, young people hailing from government housing developments, also known as housing projects, like Project 6 or Project 8, are stereotype with shady character like those from the ghettos (thus, Jeproks!). Though this may not be true. When I was a kid, I used to stay and visit my lola, who lives in Project 7. Would I call my grandma as from “the hoods?”

Jeproks or jeprox is also used to mean the crispy dried salted fish. Now, that kind of jeproks, I really really like.


(*photo from the internet)

Palawan: Photo Haiku

(The following photos were taken during our recent trip to Palawan, and also inspired these haikus, which are short poems, with traditional 17 syllables, in phrases of 5, 7, and 5.)




Hawak ko iyong kamay,

At ‘tong tsinelas.

(Shadow selfie with wifey at a beach in Sabang)




Hindi tataob,

Alon ma’y maligalig,

‘Pagkat may katig.

(In the sea of life, we also need “katig.”Photo taken at Honda Bay, in Puerto Princesa.)



Lulubog Lilitaw

Dito sa Luli,

Sa Lulubog-lilitaw,

Phone, nagtampisaw.

(The island was named so, as it will appear and disappear depending  on the tide. The water here was so inviting that even my cellphone tried to swim. It drowned.)




Mga bayawak,

Mayro’n sa gubat, at sa

Gobyerno’t syudad.

(Bayawak or monitor lizards are “cold-blooded animals” that prey on smaller creatures and their eggs, or their balikbayan box.)



Dagat at Gubat

Dagat at gubat,

Ng lupang pinagpala,

Ba’t ginahasa.

(Acres of virgin forest in Palawan are being ravaged due to mining.)




Likas na yaman,

Ngunit paraiso man,

Ay mayro’ng kulang.

(Part of our trip was a medical and dental mission in Narra. Here I observed the lack of health care for the people in this paradise island, especially the natives, known as “natibo.”)




Hindi si Batman,

Ang nakita sa kuweba,

Kun’di si Boatman.

(That is what our bangkero called himself, when we explored the Underground River, which is named one of the New 7 Wonders of the Natural World.)